Imagine if you dropped your mobile device and didn't have to worry about breaking it, because you knew the phone would bounce harmlessly off the floor -- and, even if it were damaged, it could repair itself.
That's the promise of a new material developed by researchers at the IK4-CIDETEC Research Center in Spain that can fuse back together in two hours after being severed. The polymer-based material uses "a poly(urea-urethane) type composition, a material which is widely used in industry," the researchers said in a press release.
A YouTube video (below) shows a researcher cutting a solid cylindrical-shaped piece of the material in half. The two halves are put back in contact with each other and left to sit at room temperature for two hours. In that time, according to the video, the material connects back together as a single piece of polymer that doesn't separate when the researcher stretches it.
This catalyst-free healing occurs without any intervention or other material agents, the researchers wrote in a paper (registration required) published by the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Materials Horizons.
In the paper, the researchers discuss the key to the material's self-healing capability:
A particularly useful approach to generate self-healable polymers has been the introduction of reversible or exchangeable bonds into the polymer network. The idea behind this is to reconnect the chemical crosslinks which are broken when a material fractures, restoring the integrity of the material. This is expected to provide polymers with enhanced lifetime and resistance to fatigue. Self-healing approaches based on such dynamic crosslinks have been carried out using both reversible covalent chemistries and supramolecular interactions.
The self-healing polymer could have a wide range of applications in the commercial, industrial, and aerospace sectors, where damage to materials could be harmful not only to the device, but also life threatening.
I am writing a story now about this type of polymer being applied to battery design to help a battery self-heal cracks that appear over time during operation. I think this is a great application of this material: https://energy.stanford.edu/news/scientists-invent-self-healing-battery-electrode
Stay tuned for my story. It should post this week or next.
I've been wondering about that, too, Rob. Perhaps it could be adapted to prosthetics or other kinds of medical devices that people use so that if there ever is any kind of tear or malformation, it would fix itself without needing replacement. I wonder if any of our other readers can think of good medical applications for this?
As we've discussed before in DN, by definition a self-healing polymer is a single material that heals itself when damaged or broken. They are not adhesives that can be used to attach other materials together. We've covered self-healing and shape memory plastics before: http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=267531 and see links at the end of that article.
That is an excellent question, John E. I don't know the answer--I think it is just a material that already has been attached. That's what I understand from the video and researchers. But if the two parts were made from the same material, I don't see why that couldn't work. It could be a really good application of the material.
In this new Design News feature, "How it Works," we’re starting off by examining the inner workings of the electronic cigarette. While e-cigarettes seemed like a gimmick just two or three years ago, they’re catching fire -- so to speak. Sales topped $1 billion last year and are set to hit $10 billion by 2017. Cigarette companies are fighting back by buying up e-cigarette manufacturers.
Advertised as the "Most Powerful Tablet Under $100," the Kindle Fire HD 6 was too tempting for the team at iFixit to pass up. Join us to find out if inexpensive means cheap, irreparable, or just down right economical. It's teardown time!
The increased adoption of wireless technology for mission-critical applications has revved up the global market for dynamic electronic general purpose (GP) test equipment. As the link between cloud networks and devices -- smartphones, tablets, and notebooks -- results in more complex devices under test, the demand for radio frequency test equipment is starting to intensify.
Much of the research on lithium-ion batteries is focused on how to make the batteries charge more quickly and last longer than they currently do, work that would significantly improve the experience of mobile device users, as well EV and hybrid car drivers. Researchers in Singapore have come up with what seems like the best solution so far -- a battery that can recharge itself in mere minutes and has a potential lifespan of 20 years.
Some humanoid walking robots are also good at running, balancing, and coordinated movements in group settings. Several of our sports robots have won regional or worldwide acclaim in the RoboCup soccer World Cup, or FIRST Robotics competitions. Others include the world's first hockey-playing robot and a trash-talking Scrabble player.
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