Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biomedical and Chemical Engineering


Patrick T. Mather


Active Materials, Composites, Electrospinning, Origami, Shape Memory Polymers

Subject Categories



Electrospinning, a technique used to fabricate small diameter polymer fibers, has been employed to develop unique, active materials falling under two categories: (1) shape memory elastomeric composites (SMECs) and (2) water responsive fiber mats. (1) Previous work has characterized in detail the properties and behavior of traditional SMECs with isotropic fibers embedded in an elastomer matrix. The current work has two goals: (i) characterize laminated anisotropic SMECs and (ii) develop a fabrication process that is scalable for commercial SMEC manufacturing. The former ((i)) requires electrospinning aligned polymer fibers. The aligned fibers are similarly embedded in an elastomer matrix and stacked at various fiber orientations. The resulting laminated composite has a unique response to tensile deformation: after stretching and releasing, the composite curls. This curling response was characterized based on fiber orientation. The latter goal ((ii)) required use of a dual-electrospinning process to simultaneously electrospin two polymers. This fabrication approach incorporated only industrially relevant processing techniques, enabling the possibility of commercial application of a shape memory rubber. Furthermore, the approach had the added benefit of increased control over composition and material properties. (2) The strong elongational forces experienced by polymer chains during the electrospinning process induce molecular alignment along the length of electrospun fibers. Such orientation is maintained in the fibers as the polymer vitrifies. Consequently, residual stress is stored in electrospun fiber mats and can be recovered by heating through the polymer's glass transition temperature. Alternatively, the glass transition temperature can be depressed by introducing a plasticizing agent. Poly(vinyl acetate) (PVAc) is plasticized by water, and its glass transition temperature is lowered below room temperature. Therefore, the residual stress can be relaxed at room temperature simply by hydrating the PVAc fibers. This work investigated the response of PVAc to the application of water on one surface. More specifically, the folding of films of PVAc fibrous webs in response to water lines drawn locally on the mat surface was quantified and characterized based on fiber mat characteristics.


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