ERJ staff report (BC)
London – Scientists in Spain have reported the first self-healing polymer that spontaneously and independently repairs itself without any intervention, in the peer-reviewed journal Materials Horizons.
According to the researchers, from the CIDETEC Centre for Electrochemical Technologies in San Sebastian, the new material could be used to improve the security and lifetime of plastic parts in everyday products such as electrical components, cars and even houses.
The scientists have dubbed the material a “Terminator” polymer in tribute to the shape-shifting, molten T-100 terminator robot from the Terminator 2 film.
A video shows that the permanently cross-linked poly(urea-urethane) elastomeric network completely mends itself after being cut in two with a razor blade.
The polymer behaves as a Velcro-like sealant or adhesive, displaying a 97 per cent healing efficiency in just two hours. The researchers show that after cutting the material into two separate pieces with a razor blade and allowing it to self-heal, the material is unbreakable when stretched manually.
The scientists prepared the self-healing thermoset elastomers from common polymeric starting materials using a simple and inexpensive approach. A metathesis reaction of aromatic disulphides, which naturally exchange at room temperature, causes the regeneration.
The authors said: "The fact that poly(urea-urethane)s with similar chemical composition and mechanical properties are already used in a wide range of commercial products makes this system very attractive for a fast and easy implementation in real industrial applications."
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News release and video from Royal Society of Chemistry