First reported self-healing polymer that spontaneously and independently repairs itself

Sep 16, 2013

Scientists in Spain have reported the first self-healing polymer that spontaneously and independently repairs itself without any intervention. 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 researchers have dubbed the material a 'Terminator' polymer in tribute to the shape-shifting, molten T-100 terminator robot from the Terminator 2 film.

The research is published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Materials Horizons.

Self-healing polymers that can spontaneously achieve quantitative healing in the absence of a catalyst have never been reported, until now. The scientists prepared the self-healing thermoset elastomers from common polymeric starting materials using a simple and inexpensive approach.

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. A metathesis reaction of aromatic disulphides, which naturally exchange at room temperature, causes the regeneration.

The polymer behaves as a Velcro-like sealant or adhesive, displaying an impressive 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 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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0 comments on “First reported self-healing polymer that spontaneously and independently repairs itself

  • 6
    TickleFour says:

    Self healing polymers are indeed awesome. I must point out, however, that the paper cited is not the first example of an uncatalyzed self healing polymer. Shame on Physorg and the authors that they cite for claiming to be the first to synthesize such a material. It’s always a good idea to do a thorough search of the literature before making such groundbreaking statements.

    For the original example of uncatalzyed self healing polymers, see: “Multiphase Design of Autonomic Self-Healing Thermoplastic Elastomers” Chen, Y.; Kushner, A. M.; Williams, G. A.; Guan, Z. Nature Chem. 2012, 4, 467-472.

    To bypass the paywall see the link #65 is the Nature Chemistry article.

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  • 7
    Explorer says:

    Unvulcanised (non-crosslinked) natural rubber has always been able to perform similar feats of self-healing when cut. However, for a cross-linked polymer to achieve this is really impressive. I would like to see though, tensile strength tests carried out in controlled laboratoryconditions using standard test pieces to find out if there is any reduction at all in stretch to break strength. I suspect there would be a reduction to some degree.

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  • In reply to #5 by MickeyDroy:

    Sounds a bit new age to me. Magical effects at a level too small to see requiring a strange memory of former states.

    Nothing New Age about it. Nothing magical.
    Although not, as TickleFour points out, the first self-healing synthetic polymer by a long way, it is impressive.
    In February 2008 Arkema announced the joint development with the Paris Ecole Supérieure de Physique et Chimie Industrielles (ESPCI) Matière Molle et Chimie Laboratory of a revolutionary self-healing rubber based on the concept of supramolecular chemistry.
    This new one is based on poly(urea-urethane)s and claims a 97% recovery in mechanical properties.

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