The aim of this thesis was the development of switchable information carriers based on shape memory polymers (SMPs) and the investigation of their durability. Deployed as a new kind of security label, such technology may be an effective tool to prevent counterfeiting and product piracy.
Thermoplastic as well as thermoset SMPs turned out to be applicable as a specific substrate for the fabrication of switchable information carriers. In particular, a physically cross-linked and semi-crystalline poly(ester urethane) (PEU), and a chemically cross-linked epoxy-based polymer were investigated. Both SMPs were able to undergo distinct changes in shape upon triggering, which is commonly known as the shape memory effect (SME).
A key step for the fabrication of switchable information carriers was the development of a suitable technique for a surface-specific coloring of the polymeric base material. In particular, it was necessary to have a thin coat of paint in order to assure sufficient surface contrasts within the subsequently laser-engraved barcodes (e.g. quick response (QR) codes). In detail, coloring was conducted by diffusion of staining solutions, based on organic dyes, into the polymeric matrix.
In order to obtain room temperature stable, temporary shapes with non-decipherable code information, various programming procedures were applied to the information carriers. These were either based on tensile or on compressive deformation. For instance, when using plane steel plates in the course of compressive deformation, code areas were randomly distorted. However, the triggering of the SME resulted in almost complete shape recoveries. As a result, the information carriers could reliably be switched back to readable states.
Next, the durability of the information carriers against various environmental impacts was investigated. Artificial weathering was conducted exemplarily on blue and black colored QR code carriers based on PEU. Various scenarios were selected: exposure to UVA irradiation and aging in aqueous solution. In both cases, the durability was investigated at temperatures below and above the switching temperature of the employed SMP.
Furthermore, an additional thermo-responsive security feature was added to the information carriers. Therefore, thermochromic pigments (T PIGs) were embedded into a PEU matrix. This mainly included the preparation of a PEU-paste doped with T PIG by solution mixing. The thermochromic paste was deposited by means of a solvent casting technique as thin layer atop the PEU plaque. After solvent evaporation, tightly connected PEU/PEU T PIG laminates were obtained. Subsequent laser ablation finalized the QR code carriers. These were readable at room temperature, but unreadable above the color switching temperature of the employed T PIGs due to a lack of contrast. Besides that, information carriers with temporarily concealed information could be obtained by covering the QR code with an additional layer doped with T PIG.
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