Self-healing plastics that will repair your car

New York, April 12: A scratch on your car need no longer cause you distress – it will soon “heal” itself.

Researchers have developed a plastic that “heals” on its own by restoring the initial molecular structure after any damage.

The novel polymer network self-heals within a few minutes at relatively low temperatures, the researchers have contended.

“Our method does not need any catalyst, no additive is required,” said professor Christopher Barner-Kowollik of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in the US.

Barner-Kowollik’s researchers used the possibility of cross-linking functionalised fibres or small molecules by a reversible chemical reaction for the production of self-healing materials. The team took about four years to develop the novel polymer network.

These so-called switchable networks can be decomposed into their initial constituents and re-assembled again after the damage, the researchers say in an article on their findings published in the journal Advanced Materials.

At comparably low temperatures from 50°C to 120°C, the network exhibits excellent healing properties within a few minutes, according to the study.

Using the healing cycle developed by them, the KIT researchers have found a large number of intermolecular compounds that close again within a very short term during cooling.

Mechanical tests, such as tensile and viscosity tests, confirmed that the original properties of the material can be restored completely.

“We succeeded in demonstrating that test specimens after first healing were bound even more strongly than before,” Barner-Kowollik was quoted as saying in the article.

IANS