A novel electroactive shape memory polymer nanocomposite of epoxidized linseed oil plasticized polylactic acid and multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) was prepared by a combination of solution blending, solvent cast technique, and hydraulic hot press moulding. In this study, polylactic acid (PLA) was first plasticized by epoxidized linseed oil (ELO) in order to overcome the major limitations of PLA, such as high brittleness, low toughness, and low tensile elongation. Then, MWCNTs were incorporated into the ELO plasticized PLA matrix at three different loadings (2, 3 and 5 wt. %), with the aim of making the resulting nanocomposites electrically conductive. The addition of ELO decreased glass transition temperature, and increased the elongation and thermal degradability of PLA, as shown in the results of differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), tensile test, and thermo gravimetric analysis (TGA). Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and atomic force microscopy (AFM) were used to observe surface morphology, topography, and the dispersion of MWCNTs in the nanocomposite. Finally, the electroactive-shape memory effect (electroactive-SME) in the resulting nanocomposite was investigated by a fold-deploy “U”-shape bending test. As per the results, the addition of both ELO and MWCNTs to PLA matrix seemed to enhance its overall properties with a great deal of potential in improved shape memory. The 3 wt. % MWCNTs-reinforced nanocomposite system, which showed 95% shape recovery within 45 s at 40 DC voltage, is expected to be used as a preferential polymeric nanocomposite material in various actuators, sensors and deployable devices.
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