Intelligent polymers, also known as smart polymers or stimuli-responsive polymers, are high-performance polymers that are sensitive to the slightest environmental changes. These change according to the temperature, humidity, pH, and electrical, or magnetic field. They are synthesized by combining reactive functional groups to backbone chains during polymerization. Based on the selection of backbone chain and functional group, intelligent polymers possess different properties such as mechanical, chemical, electrical, and optical.
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They are flexible, easy to color, strong, easy to mold, and tough. Intelligent polymers are primarily used in the production of hydrogels, biodegradable packaging, and biomedical engineering products. They are also employed in the manufacture of daily-usage products such as nappies, helmets, plastic bags, plastic bottles, and chewing gums.
Based on physical features, intelligent polymers can be classified into free linear chain solutions, reversible gels covalently cross linked and polymer chain grafted on a surface. Based on stimuli, these polymers can be classified into physical stimuli (temperature, ultrasounds, light, and mechanical stress), chemical stimuli (pH and ionic strength) and biological stimuli (enzymes and biomolecules).
Intelligent polymers are used in various industries such as biomedical, tissue engineering, textile engineering, biotechnology, and pharmaceuticals. These polymers are employed in drug delivery systems, where they can safely transport a pharmaceutical compound into the body, in the biomedical industry. This is done automatically without the use of sensors, transducers, switches, or pumps. When the polymers are exposed to critical temperature they show certain changes in their properties, which is used in tissue culture application. Certain category of new polymers are being developed by companies; these have the ability to return to their original shape from the deformed shape once exposed to external stimuli. These polymers are known as shape-memory polymers and are used in textile engineering. Smart polymers are employed in biotechnology and pharmaceutical formulations, as they get physically mixed or chemically conjugated to biomolecules. These are used for yielding other products.
North America and Europe have been dominating the intelligent polymers market since the last few years. These polymers are used extensively in the biomedical sector, which is expanding significantly in North America and Europe. These regions have been considered among the most technologically advanced across the globe. Companies operating in the intelligent polymers market in North America and Europe focus on product innovation through research and development.
Asia Pacific is expected to be the fastest growing region in the intelligent polymers market in the near future. The emerging economies of developing countries in Asia Pacific region, like India and China are expected to drive the growth of this market. Other regions such as Middle East & Africa and Latin America are expected to provide growth opportunities for intelligent polymers market during the forecast period.
Intelligent polymers have the potential to drive the growth of all the industries, as they can adapt to the environmental changes. This increases product performance and extends its lifespan. Various companies are applying the concept of intelligent polymers to their products to improve their performance and quality. Autonomic Materials, Inc. uses intelligent polymers as self-healing agents in products such as elastomers, thermosets, and powder coatings. This allows the use of products for customized solutions and various applications. High Impact Technology, LLC uses intelligent polymers in its resin systems for self-sealing technology. This provides superior corrosion and abrasion protection to prevent leakages.
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Key players operating in the intelligent polymers market include The Dow Chemical Company, Huntsman International LLC, Akzo Nobel N.V., Covestro AG, Autonomic Materials Inc., and High Impact Technology LLC.
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