“Smart” Polymers and their Stimuli


Smart Polymers are polymers that respond to characteristics of their environment such as pH, temperature, calcium, magnesium, organic solvents, magnetic field, electrical potential, IR radiation and UV radiation. Polymer responses can include altering color or transparency, becoming conductive or permeable to water or changing shape (shape memory polymers).


Below is a table I made of common polymers and their stimuli, based off a table in Fundamentals of BioMEMS and Medical Microdevices by Steven S. Saliterman.


Stimulus Polymer
pH Dendrimers
Poly(L-lysene) ester
Lactose-PEG grafted poly(L-lysine) nanoparticle
Poly(L-lysine) – g-poly(histidine)
Poly(n-propyl acrylate)
Poly(ethacrylic acid) (PEA)
Polysilamine (a heterotelechelic oligomer)
Eudragit S-100
Eudragit L-100
PMAA-PEG copolymer
Calcium Alginate
Magnesium Chitosan
Organic Solvent Eudragit S-100
Temperature Poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAAm)
Magnetic Fields PNIPAAm hydrogels with ferromagnetic material
Sol-gel transition Poloxamers (Block copolymers of polyethylene glycol (PEG) and polyptopylene glycol (PPG))
Chitosan-glycerol phosphate-water
Electric Potential Polythiophen gel
Collagen (Piezoelectric)
IR radiation Poly(N-vinylcarbazole) composite
UV radiation Polyacrylamide crosslinked with 4-(methylacryloyamino)azobenzene
Polyacrylamide-triphenylmethane leuco derivatives
Ultrasound Dodecyl isocyanate-modified PEG-grafted poly(hydrohyethyl-methacrylate) Poly(HEME)


We can also have polymers that respond to multiple stimuli at the same time (Dual-Stimuli). These are listed in the table below.


Stimulus Polymer
Calcium/PEG Carboxymethyl Cellulose
Calcium/Temperature Eudragit S-100
Calcium/Acetonitrile Eudragit S-100
32-36°C Hydrogels of oligoNIPAAm and oligo(N-vinylcaprolactam)
pH/Temperature Poly(N-acryloyl-N’-propyl piperazine)
Light/Temperature Poly(vinyl-alcohol)-graft-poly-acrylamide-triphenylmethane leucocyanide derivative