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New polymer spontaneously self-heals at room temperature

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October 8, 2013

The self-healing polymer devised at CIDETEC can mend itself without a catalyst (Photo: Roy...

The self-healing polymer devised at CIDETEC can mend itself without a catalyst (Photo: Royal Society of Chemistry)

A team of scientists at the CIDETEC Centre for Electrochemical Technologies have successfully created the first self-healing polymer that can heal by itself at room temperature, without the need for external catalysts. The material could be used as an industrial adhesive or to replace similar compounds in cars, houses and electrical components to make them more fault-tolerant.

Polymers stick together thanks to so-called "cross-links" – chemical bonds that glue different polymer chains to one another. Under normal circumstances, these bonds need a source of energy such as light, pressure or a change in pH in order to form (or heal once they have been severed).

The polymer created by Ibon Odriozola and colleagues sports a key difference. Their material, a soft poly(urea-urethane) network, leverages the metathesis reaction in aromatic disulphides. This chemical reaction is naturally able to create covalent bonds at room temperature, allowing the polymer to autonomously heal without an external source of energy.

When cut with a razor blade and left to rest at room temperature, the material showed the impressive ability to quickly mend itself with 97 percent efficiency after only two hours.

The polymer showed a close resemblance with commercial compounds used as sealants and adhesives, suggesting that it could be used to replace them and considerably extend their lifetime.

Currently, the compound has a soft consistency. Odriozola and colleagues are now focusing on creating a harder version that could be used, among other things, to create plastic parts that would be highly resistant to cutting and repetitive straining.

A paper describing the polymer appears in a recent issue of the journal Materials Horizons.

The video below demonstrates the self-healing properties of the material.

Source: Royal Society of Chemistry

About the Author
Dario Borghino Dario studied software engineering at the Polytechnic University of Turin. When he isn't writing for Gizmag he is usually traveling the world on a whim, working on an AI-guided automated trading system, or chasing his dream to become the next European thumbwrestling champion.   All articles by Dario Borghino
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5 Comments

I'm thinking CV-boots....

Michiel Mitchell
9th October, 2013 @ 10:59 am PDT

I can see some tremendous applications in Aviation/ Aerospace/ Marine and Automobiles. Depending on the temperature range and durability of this unique product it would be ideal for "seals" in various non heat intensive environments.

I can think of a plethora of applications depending on costs, weight of product, pliability and durability. Would love to hear more about any testing done to provide more specific applications for market acceptance . Looks quite promising and I am sure others viewing will have plenty of targeted ideas to bring to market in the near term.

SpeedBird2014
9th October, 2013 @ 02:47 pm PDT

Could be used for assembling things, especially if it can be molded and bonded to metals and plastics.

With a thin layer of this stuff around the edges of something like a housing for a phone, protected with a peel off barrier until right before assembly, it would eliminate the need for complex glue application steps.

Just have a setup that peels off the barrier then pushes the parts together. In a short time the seal is complete and isn't going to come apart. Faster and cheaper than using a robot to apply glue like on the iPhone 5Cheapomodel.

Gregg Eshelman
9th October, 2013 @ 09:35 pm PDT

Electrical insulation.

Slowburn
12th October, 2013 @ 05:35 am PDT

You guys are clearly over thinking this. This polymer could be used for self-repairing condoms. If it can be developed to be safe for use around mucous membranes.

J.Decipher
11th November, 2013 @ 11:06 am PST
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