Teaching Polymer Memory Tricks

McDonnell Douglas Engineering Auditorium

ChEMS Seminar

Dr. Tao Xie

Bio and Nanomaterials Department

Sensors and Materials Lab

HRL Laboratories


The ability to undergo programmable shape shifting (i.e. shape memory) is a key feature that distinguishes shape memory polymers (SMP) from other stimuli-responsive polymers.  A traditional SMP can only memorize one temporary shape and would recover to its permanent shape upon exposure to an external stimulus.  Although this basic concept has been known for half a century, advances in the last five years have significantly changed such a conventional view.  In this talk, I will give an overview of my research activities on this subject.  Particular emphasis will be placed on how the SMP field has evolved scientifically (e.g. multi-shape memory and temperature memory) and how one can take advantage of the polymer shape memory for practical applications (e.g. bioinspired reversible adhesives, self-healing surfaces, and structural colors).



Dr. Tao Xie obtained his BS and MS degrees in Polymer Chemistry from Zhejiang University in China in 1993 and 1996, respectively. From University of Massachusetts at Amherst, he received his Ph.D. in Polymer Science & Engineering in 2001. Between 2001 and 2012, he was a staff research scientist at General Motors Global Research & Development Center. At GM, he led several research projects with focuses on both fundamental and applied aspects of smart polymers and bioinspired materials. Since July 2012, he has been a senior research staff engineer at HRL Laboratories. He is the inventor of over 40 patents (and applications) and the recipient of the Campbell award in 2011. The reversible adhesive technology he developed was selected as “2011 Innovations that could change the way you manufacture” by Society of Manufacturing Engineers.