Rapid progress in material science and nanotechnology has led to the development of the shape memory alloys (SMA) and the shape memory polymers (SMP) based functional multilayered structures that, due to their capability to achieve the properties not feasible by most natural materials, have attracted a significant attention from the scientific community. These shape memory materials can sustain large deformations, which can be recovered once the appropriate value of an external stimulus is applied. Moreover, the SMAs and SMPs can be reprogrammed to meet several desired functional properties. As a result, SMAs and SMPs multilayered structures benefit from the unprecedented physical and material properties such as the shape memory effect, superelasticity, large displacement actuation, changeable mechanical properties, and the high energy density. They hold promises in the design of advanced functional micro- and nano-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS/NEMS). In this review, we discuss the recent understanding and progress in the fields of the SMAs and SMPs. Particular attention will be given to the existing challenges, critical issues, limitations, and achievements in the preparation and characterization of the SMPs and NiTi-based SMAs thin films, and their heterostructures for MEMS/NEMS applications including both experimental and computational approaches. Examples of the recent MEMS/NEMS devices utilizing the unique properties of SMAs and SMPs such as micropumps, microsensors or tunable metamaterial resonators are highlighted. In addition, we also introduce the prospective future research directions in the fields of SMAs and SMPs for the nanotechnology applications.
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