Shape Memory Polymers: Blooming Flower Project

The current project is looking at creating a shape memory polymer that mimic the behavior of blooming flower tea.  A video that describes how blooming flower tea is made is given here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLCnHcmhezw.  This is a type of tea called “art” tea and consists of tea leaves in a compact structure that folds over a flower and opens up when exposed to hot water.  A picture of the blooming flower tea is given here:

Blooming Tea

Blooming Flower Tea: The green compressed balls are what it looks like before it is exposed to hot water.

Some inspiration for this project also comes from origami robots.  MIT and Harvard have created an origami robot that can assemble itself and move from a 1-Dimensional structure.  A video of the robot is given here:  http://www.tested.com/tech/robots/463382-brief-mit-origami-robot-walks-away-laser-cutter/.

In order to work on this project, I have tried some flower baking molds at various degrees of temperatures.  However, there is some difficulty in obtaining the proper folding technique for the opening of the flower. The picture below depicts a flower from the baking mold. I have made one with a glass transition at 70 C and one with a glass transition at 30 C. Since the flower from the baking mold is very flat on the back, the structure does not yield to folding in very well.

Shape Memory Polymer From Baking Flower Mold

Next I tried laser-cutting a flat 2D shape of a flower and folding it in. Pictures of the flat 2D shape are given below.

Shape Memory Polymer Flower Folded

Shape Memory Polymer Flower Folded

Shape Memory Polymer Flower Unfolded

I have uploaded a video of the shape memory polymer flower blooming here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7iQLhYO4_U&feature=youtu.be

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