Geometry-dependent compressive responses in nanoimprinted submicron-structured shape memory polyurethane
High resolution surface textures, when rationally designed, provide an attractive surface engineering approach to enhance surface functionalities. Designing smart surfaces by coupling surface texture with shape memory polymers has garnered attention in achieving tunable mechanical properties. We investigate the structure–mechanical property relationships for programmable, shape-memorizing submicron-scale pillar arrays subjected to flat-punch compression. The geometrically-dependent deformation of structured surfaces with two different aspect ratios (250 nm-pillars 1:1 and 550 nm-pillars 2.4:1) were investigated, and their moduli were found to be lower than that of non-patterned surface. From finite element analysis, the pillar deformation is correlated to a mechanistic transition from a discrete, unidirectional compression of 250 nm-pillars to lateral constraints caused by interpillar contact in 550 nm-pillars. This lateral pillar–pillar contact in the 550 nm-pillars resulted in an increased and maximum strain-dependent modulus but lower elastic recovery and energy dissipation as compared with the 250 nm-pillars. Furthermore, the compressive responses of temporarily shaped pillars (programmed by stretching) were compared with the permanently shaped pillars. The extent of lateral constraints controlled by pillar shape and spacing in 550 nm-pillars was responsible for the modulus differences between the original and stretched patterns, whereas the modulus of 250 nm-pillars remained as a constant value with different levels of stretching. This study provides mechanistic insights into how the mechanical behavior can be modulated by designing the aspect ratio of shape memory pillar arrays and by programming the surface geometry, thus revealing the potential of developing ingenious designs of responsive surfaces sensitive to mechanical deformation.