Shape-Memory and Self-Healing Effects in Mechanosalient Molecular Crystals

Durga Prasad Karothu, James Weston, Israel Tilahun Desta, Panče Naumov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The thermosalient crystals of terephthalic acid are extraordinarily mechanically compliant and reversibly shape-shift between two forms with different crystal habits. While the transition of form II to form I is spontaneous, the transition of form I to form II is latent and can be triggered by applying local mechanical stress, whereby crystals leap several centimeters in air. This mechanosalient effect (mechanically stimulated motility) is due to sudden release of strain that has accrued in the crystal of form I, which is a metastable structure at ambient conditions. High-speed optical analysis and serial scanning electron microscopy reveal that the mechanical effect is due to rapid reshaping of crystal domains on a millisecond time scale triggered by mechanical stimulation. Mechanically pre-deformed crystals taken over the thermal phase transition exhibit memory effects and partially regain their shape, while cracked, sliced, or otherwise damaged crystals tend to recover their macroscopic integrity by restorative action of intermolecular π-π interactions in a manner which resembles the behavior of shape-memory and self-healing polymers. These observations provide additional evidence that the thermo-/photo-/mechanosalient effects are macroscopic manifestations of martensitic-type transitions in molecular solids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13298-13306
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number40
StatePublished - Oct 12 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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