SCIENCE CHINA Materials, Volume 64 , Issue 9 : 2337-2347(2021) https://doi.org/10.1007/s40843-020-1611-9

A shape memory porous sponge with tunability in both surface wettability and pore size for smart molecule release

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  • ReceivedNov 23, 2020
  • AcceptedJan 7, 2021
  • PublishedMar 26, 2021


Funded by

the National Natural Science Foundation of China(22075061,21674030,51790502)


This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (22075061, 21674030 and 51790502).

Interest statement

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Contributions statement

Liu P and Lai H carried out the investigation and wrote the paper; Xia Q and Zhang D carried out the mechanical measurements and theoretical analysis; Cheng Z, Liu Y and Jiang L contributed to the conceptualization, supervision and valuable discussion.

Author information

Pengchang Liu received his Bachelor’s degree from Harbin University of Science and Technology in 2012, and his Master’s degree at Jilin University in 2015. He is currently a PhD student at the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Harbin Institute of Technology, China. His present research interest focuses on porous shape memory polymers with liquid permeation.

Zhongjun Cheng obtained his BSc (2003) and MSc (2006) degrees in chemistry at Jilin University, China, and his PhD degree (2009) at the Institute of Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, under the supervision of Professor Lei Jiang. He is currently an associate professor at Harbin Institute of Technology, Heilongjiang, China. His scientific interest is in the design and fabrication of superwetting materials with dynamic tunable micro-/nanostructures, and related applications.


Supplementary information

Supporting data are available in the online version of the paper.


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  • Figure 1

    Schematic illustration of the design principle and smart control of the sponge. (a) PFOS ion-doped PPy that can transit between hydrophobicity/hydrophilicity was used to coat the top surface of the sponge to provide switchable wetting performance. (b) Shape memory polymer TPI-coated sponge was used as the substrate to offer the tunable pore size. By synergistically adjusting both the surface wettability and pore size, the sponge can be smartly controlled between multiple states: (c) large pores with hydrophobic surface; (d) large pores with hydrophilic surface; (e) small pores with hydrophobic surface; and (f) small pores with hydrophilic surface, respectively.

  • Figure 2

    Photos of the as-prepared sponge at initial state (a), the pressed state (b), and the recovered state (c), respectively. (d–f) SEM images of the obtained sponge viewed from top, bottom and side, respectively. Insets are amplified images of the surface corresponding to (d) and (e), respectively. (g–i) SEM images of the sponge at the pressed state viewed from top, bottom, and side, respectively. Insets are magnified surface images corresponding to (g) and (h), respectively. (j, k) Shapes of a water droplet on the top surface when the PPy was alternately changed between the oxidation/reduction states, indicating superhydrophobicity/superhydrophilicity switching can be achieved. (l) The top surface wetting performance can be repeatedly regulated. (m) Nitrogen adsorption-desorption isotherms of the SMS at the pressed state. (n) Statistic of the average pore size for the SMS in different states. (o) The pore size can be repeatedly tuned by alternately pressing/recovering the SMS’s shape. The results confirm that the as-prepared sponge has a good SME, and both surface wettability and pore size can be smartly controlled.

  • Figure 3

    Typical 3D-reconstructed Micro-XCT images of SMS at different states: (a) initial, (b) after pressing, (c–f) corresponding to the different Rs. (g) Statistic of the pore size of the SMS as the Rs is increased, indicating that the pore size can be accurately regulated. (h) Statistic of the top surface WCA on the sponge with different pore sizes, meaning that the switchable superhydrophobicity/superhydrophilicity can be always observed regardless of the variation of pore size. (i) Statistic of the water permeation flux when the sponge shows different wettabilities and pore sizes, demonstrating that not only ON/OFF water permeation, but also precise permeation flux can be controlled.

  • Figure 4

    Application of the sponge in controlling the molecule release: cumulative release of Rh B when the sponge shows the superhydrophilicity with different pore sizes (a–c), the superhydrophobicity with different pore sizes (d–f), and the switching superhydrophobicity/superhydrophilicity with different pore sizes (g–h). These results demonstrate that through regulating surface wettability and pore size, diverse release manners with controlled release velocity can be achieved.


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