Smart materials (also known as adaptive or intelligent materials) respond to and interact with their immediate environments to exhibit adaptive characteristics that allow a specific wished-for functional effect to be achieved. Smart materials of particular interest in the SPOMAN setup are made from polymers, carbonaceous components, and composites incorporating micro and nanostructured fillers (incl. 2D materials) for reinforcement. The properties of carefully designed responsive/adaptable materials or surfaces may be fine-tuned to enhance e.g. adhesive, anti-fouling, self-cleaning, self-healing, anti-corrosive, storage or low-friction characteristics. Such materials stand to replace expensive metals as thermal and mechanical properties can be enhanced considerably. Not only will this reduce manufacturers’ dependence on scarce raw materials and lower their production costs. The technology also pushes the performance limits of their products such as wind mills, pumps, toys, water meters, heat exchanges, weighing and packaging equipment, and household appliances. In addition, the use of biopolymers or various waste products in the production of the polymer material paves the way for eco-friendly production. As a consequence, the technologies can lead to competitive advantages on the global market. With such grand perspectives, fundamental research in smart and reusable/sustainable materials becomes a key stone as well as a fertilizer for technological innovation and (sustainable) economic growth from a societal point of view.
In this open science framework, we will develop new methodologies by which polymers and composites can be constructed and disassembled upon request. New avenues in surface and materials science is opened by gaining control over both formation and, in particular, breakage of bonds ranging from weak secondary to strong covalent and coordination bonds. This is accomplished by introducing with high precision addressable chemical units at specific locations of polymers attached to surfaces and in bulk. The research will lead to the development of completely new kinds of adaptable polymers and composites which, once the end of use is reached, may be broken down to the original or new valuable building blocks in a sustainable manner.