Spanish scientists at the CIDETEC Centre for Electrochemical Technologies in San Sebastian have developed a new self-healing material …
This material, the first of its kind, was christened Terminator, in tribute to the famous shape-shifting cyborg: after being cut in two by a razor blade, both halves stick back together with 97% efficiency in less than two hours; it then becomes impossible to manually separate both halves due to the strength of the bond.
This innovative material, as described in Materials Horizons, the Royal Society of Chemistry's periodical, is made up of polymers which are able to spontaneously regenerate their bonds to each other after having been separated, at ambient temperature and with no exterior stimuli. In short, both sides of a tear just need to be in contact to fuse together, much like a permanent velcro.
The process which comes into play is that of metathesis, a chemical reaction resulting in the exchange of one or several atoms between chemical species (here, aromatic disulphides). And the whole point of the experiment is that once the sample has been reconstituted, it recovers its initial properties, starting with tensile strength.
According to the researchers, "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."
This polyurethane derivative could be used to improve the security and lifetime of plastic parts, in particular in cars, around the home, electrical components or even biomaterials.
No doubt about it, this plastic is going to make a splash!