Improvements in the characterization of materials is supporting a renewed surge in interest and development in the field of shape memory polymers and materials.

Shape memory polymers (SMPs) have the unique characteristic of being able to remember their original shape following temporary deformation. The SMP function and hence characteristics can be initiated by means of an external action such as a temperature change (thermo responsive SMP), light (photo responsive SMP) or chemical change (chemo responsive SMP).

There are a multitude of applications for SMPs across all major disciplines including textiles, optics, bio and engineering, which make SMPs one of the most popular areas of research at this time.

Since the London Olympics last year a lot of attention has been given to embracing the characteristics of SMPs in sports performance clothing and textiles. The humble pair of long johns is now a thing of the past, performance clothing with the help of SMPs can support and aid posture around the back, knees, and other key joints as well as keep you warm. The exoskeletons as they are sometimes described can change shape and compression depending on the temperature of your body. Scientists are claiming some are able to reflect the body's infrared rays resulting in improved blood circulation and cell metabolism.

SMPs have recently been used to develop new kinds of programmable optical components, the polymer used is obtained by crosslinking semi-crystalline poly(ethylene-co-vinyl acetate) (EVA). A possible use here is in the area of programmable security holograms, or in holographic storage components that can be erased to eliminate sensitive data.