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Plastic Zero - Using a Shape Memory Polymer (SMP)

Shape Memory Polymer (SMP) is an active and elastic polymeric smart materials that have a dual-shape capability.

Photo of Jessica Danyella

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Plastic packaging usually ends up in the landfill, but some previous research that has been done designed a new type of packaging that be reused. Shape memory polymer (SMP) are an elastic polymer that has been altered to give a dynamic shape "memory" properties.  It can changes from a rigid polymer to an elastic state which will recover its "memory" shape once it is left unrestrained. 

What is happening with the shape memory is that the internal structure of  a solid material that can change back and forth between two very different forms, its molecules are rearranging in a completely reversible way. This state is called austenite and martensite where at lower temperatures, they take the martensite form which is relatively easy to shape and soft; and they will transform  into austenite, which is a harder material that is much more difficult to deformed at higher temperatures. Previous study said that packages could be sent back to the manufacturer to be reused in an endless loop as this material can be flattened easily and can be returned into the original shape. This also raise the awareness of implementing the Circular Economy principle where a business or an industry moves toward linear consumption towards reuse.

However, there will be necessary to conduct another research regarding the safety in regards to use this shape memory polymer materials.

How does this research relate to our Use Cases?

This solution is related to Use Case number #3 as the shape memory polymers can be used as an alternative to make a take-away hot coffee lids. It won't change the coffee lids shape as it will transformed to a hard material and hard to deformed at a higher temperatures. This material is easy to be transformed back to the previous shape.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

It seems impossible to totally eliminate plastic from our lives, but there are important steps where technology and innovation can take further steps to reduce the amount of plastic we use everyday. Especially seeing from the large coffee consumption basically in every country. Thus, it has raised the awareness of technology and innovation that is problem solving for a sustainable environment.

Tell us about yourself

I am a Master of Management student and currently taking a subject of Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship. I am curious in learning how innovation can possibly solve the problem in our lives.


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Photo of Lindawati Tjioe

What a great innovation Jessica! However, i wonder whether this plastic could be shaped into other plastic things, such as from coffee cup into plastic bottle?

Photo of Jessica Danyella

Thanks Linda, it's amazing seeing so many innovative ideas to solve issues around us. Shape memory polymers can be reshaped several times and with different temporary shapes. It can retain two or sometimes three shapes, and the transition between those is induced by temperature.
Anyway, thank you for your comment :)

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