Mechanically responsive polymers harness mechanical energy to facilitate unique chemical transformations and bestow materials with force sensing (e.g., mechanochromism) or self-healing capabilities. A variety of solution- and solid-state techniques, covering a spectrum of forces and strain rates, can be used to activate mechanically responsive polymers. Moreover, many of these methods have been combined with optical spectroscopy or chemical labeling techniques to characterize the products formed via mechanical activation of appropriate precursors in situ. In this tutorial review, we discuss the methods and techniques that have been used to supply mechanical force to macromolecular systems, and highlight the advantages and challenges associated with each.
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