Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Robin Shandas

Second Advisor

Christopher Bowman

Third Advisor

Jeff Stansbury


The focus of this research was to formulate, characterize and tailor the reaction methodologies and material properties of thiol-vinyl systems to develop novel polymer platforms for a range of engineering applications. Thiol-ene photopolymers were demonstrated to exhibit several advantageous characteristics for shape memory polymer systems for a range of biomedical applications. The thiol-ene shape memory polymer systems were tough and flexible as compared to the acrylic control systems with glass transition temperatures between 30 and 40 C; ideal for actuation at body temperature. The thiol-ene polymers also exhibited excellent shape fixity and a rapid and distinct shape memory actuation response along with free strain recoveries of greater than 96% and constrained stress recoveries of 100%.

Additionally, two-stage reactive thiol-acrylate systems were engineered as a polymer platform technology enabling two independent sets of polymer processing and material properties. There are distinct advantages to designing polymer systems that afford two distinct sets of material properties – an intermediate polymer that would enable optimum handling and processing of the material (stage 1), while maintaining the ability to tune in different, final properties that enable the optimal functioning of the polymeric material (stage 2). To demonstrate the range of applicability of the two-stage reactive systems, three specific applications were demonstrated; shape memory polymers, lithographic impression materials, and optical materials. The thiol-acrylate reactions exhibit a wide range of application versatility due to the range of available thiol and acrylate monomers as well as reaction mechanisms such as Michael Addition reactions and free radical polymerizations. By designing a series of non-stoichiometeric thiol-acrylate systems, a polymer network is initially formed via a base catalyzed „click‟ Michael addition reaction. This self-limiting reaction results in a Stage 1 polymer with excess acrylic functional groups within the network. At a later point in time, the photoinitiated, free radical polymerization of the excess acrylic functional groups results in a highly crosslinked, robust material system. By varying the monomers within the system as well as the stoichiometery of thiol to acrylate functional groups, the ability of the two-stage reactive systems to encompass a wide range of properties at the end of both the stage 1 and stage 2 polymerizations was demonstrated. The thiol-acrylate networks exhibited intermediate Stage 1 rubbery moduli and glass transition temperatures that range from 0.5 MPa and -10 ºC to 22 MPa and 22 ºC respectively. The same polymer networks can then attain glass transition temperatures that range from 5 ºC to 195 ºC and rubbery moduli of up to 200 MPa after the subsequent photocure stage.

Two-stage reactive polymer composite systems were also formulated and characterized for thermomechanical and mechanical properties. Thermomechanical analysis showed that the fillers resulted in a significant increase in the modulus at both stage 1 and stage 2 polymerizations without a significant change in the glass transition temperatures (Tg). The two-stage reactive matrix composite formed with a hexafunctional acrylate matrix and 20 volume % silica particles showed a 125% increase in stage 1 modulus and 101% increase in stage 2 modulus, when compared with the modulus of the neat matrix.

Finally, the two-stage reactive polymeric devices were formulated and designed as orthopedic suture anchors for arthroscopic surgeries and mechanically characterized. The Stage 1 device was designed to exhibit properties ideal for arthroscopic delivery and device placement with glass transition temperatures 25 – 30 °C and rubbery moduli ~ 95 MPa. The subsequent photopolymerization generated Stage 2 polymers designed to match the local bone environment with moduli ranging up to 2 GPa. Additionally, pull-out strengths of 140 N were demonstrated and are equivalent to the pull-strengths achieved by other commercially available suture anchors.