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Solvent-assisted programming of flat polymer sheets into reconfigurable and self-healing 3D structures.

Abstract

It is extremely challenging, yet critically desirable to convert 2D plastic films into 3D structures without any assisting equipment. Taking the advantage of solvent-induced bond-exchange reaction and elastic-plastic transition, shape programming of flat vitrimer polymer sheets offers a new way to obtain 3D structures or topologies, which are hard for traditional molding to achieve. Here we show that such programming can be achieved with a pipette, a hair dryer, and a bottle of solvent. The polymer used here is very similar to the commercial epoxy, except that a small percentage of a specific catalyst is involved to facilitate the bond-exchange reaction. The programmed 3D structures can later be erased, reprogrammed, welded with others, and healed again and again, using the same solvent-assisted technique. The 3D structures can also be recycled by hot-pressing into new sheets, which can still be repeatedly programmed.

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