Self-Healing Polymer Works Without Catalyst

For the first time, a self-healing polymer has been demonstrated that does not require an additional catalyst to start the process.


(Self-healing polymer requires no catalyst)
A cylindrical sample of a polymer (a) was cut in half (b and c)
and the two halves were then allowed to stand for 2 hours by
simple contact (d). After that time, the material could be manually
stretched without rupture (e and f).
(credit: Royal Society of Chemistry)

Self-healing polymers have been able to mend themselves by reforming broken cross-linking bonds, but that requires an external catalyst (trigger) to promote bond repair, such as heat, light, or specific environmental conditions, such as pH.

Ibon Odriozola at the CIDETEC Centre for Electrochemical Technologies in Spain used a poly(urea–urethane) elastomeric network, which completely mended itself after being cut in two by a razor blade. It is the metathesis reaction of aromatic disulphided (which naturally exchange at room temperature) that causes regeneration.

The blogosphere is awash with attention-grabbing headlines regarding "Terminator" polymers, referring to the self-healing characteristics of the T-1000 robot from Terminator 2.

However, real sf fans know that the self-healing material idea is much older. For example, you might be familiar with the self-healing houses from brilliant writer JG Ballard's 1962 story The Thousand Dreams of Stellavista.

Even better, consider the self-healing plastic from Golden Age great Raymond Z. Gallun's 1951 short story Asteroid of Fear, which was perfect for asteroid greenhouses:

But the wide roof was all the way up, now—intact. It made a great, squarish bubble, the skin of which [a 'transparent, wire-strengthened plastic '] was specially treated to stop the hard and dangerous part of the ultra-violet rays of the sun, and also the lethal portion of the cosmic rays. It even had an inter-skin layer of gum that could seal the punctures that grain-of-sand-sized meteors might make.

Via Kurzweil AI; special thanks to Pete for contributing the tip on this story.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 9/16/2013)

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