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Tuesday, 11 August 2020
Raw materials & technologies, Technologies, Functional coatings

Polymer can heal itself without external catalyst

Friday, 4 October 2013

Self-healing polymer is based on a poly(urea-urethane) type composition and can spontaneously and independently repair itself without any intervention.

Scientists have developed a new self-healing polymer

Source: Fotolia/ Franz Pfluegl

Scientists have developed a new self-healing polymer

Source: Fotolia/ Franz Pfluegl

Scientists in Spain have reported the first self-healing polymer that "spontaneously and independently repairs itself without any intervention.” Based on a poly(urea-urethane) type composition, the new polymer was discovered by researchers at the CIDETEC Centre for Electrochemical Technologies, a research alliance based in San Sebastian, Spain.

While self-healing polymers aren't new, they usually require an external catalyst - such as heat, light or a specific environmental condition - for the cross-linking healing mechanism to work.

"Attractive for real industrial applications”

"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,” the researchers said, according to the Royal Society of Chemistry.

According to the authors, the polymer acts as a Velcro-like sealant with a 97 percent healing efficiency in two hours. After cutting the material - a cylinder made from poly(urea-urethane) - into two pieces with a razor blade and pressing them back together, the material was unbreakable after two hours when stretched by hand, the team demonstrated in a video presentation.

Self-healing polymers that can spontaneously heal without a catalyst have never before been reported, the authors said. They reported that the regeneration occurs from a metathesis reaction of aromatic disulphides, which naturally exchange at room temperature, without the need for any external intervention such as heat or light.

Second experiment

In a second experiment, the researchers "chopped” an identical cylinder very slowly by the gravitational force of a copper filament attached to a weight. By the time the filament had gone completely through the cylinder, reseachers report that the first had had already self-mended completely.

The researchers say they plan to continue working on this self-healing polymer to develop harder materials by incorporating reinforcements or other technologies. The work was was developed in the framework of the SHINE European project, where IK4-CIDETEC participates as a partner in a consortium of various European companies, research centers and universities.

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