U. of I. materials science and engineering professor Jianjun Cheng, graduate student Hanze Ying and postdoctoral researcher Yanfeng Zhang published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Photo by Anne Lukeman
A close-up of an elastic polymer that was cut in two and healed overnight.
“The key advantage of using this material is that it’s catalyst-free and low-temperature, and can be healed multiple times,” Cheng said. “These are very nice materials for internal cracks. This can heal the crack before it causes major problems by propagating.”
Other self-healing material systems have focused on solid, strong materials. However, the new study uses softer elastic materials made of polyurea, one of the most widely used classes of polymers in consumer goods such as paints, coatings, elastics and plastics.
After the polymer is cut or torn, the researchers press the two pieces back together and let the sample sit for about a day to heal – no extra chemicals or catalysts required. The materials can heal at room temperature, but the process can be sped up by curing at slightly higher temperatures (37 degrees Celsius, or about body temperature). The polymer bonds back together on the molecular level nearly as strongly as before it was cut. In fact, tests found that some healed samples, stretched to their limits, tore in a new place rather than the healed spot, evidence that the samples had healed completely.
See a video demonstrating the preparation and self-healing properties.
The researchers use commercially available ingredients to create their polymer. By slightly tweaking the structure of the molecules that join up to make the polymer, they can make the bonds between the molecules longer so that they can more easily pull apart and stick back together – the key for healing. This molecular-level re-bonding is called dynamic chemistry.
Dynamic chemistry has been explored in some other polymers, but those materials tend to be for specialized applications or laboratory settings, rather than the conventional polymers used commercially. By focusing on consumer materials and using readily available ingredients, the researchers hope that manufacturers could easily integrate dynamic materials.“We just buy commercial materials and mix them together, no fancy controls or special apparatus,” said Cheng. “It’s a very simple, low-cost, inexpensive process. Anybody can do this on any scale.”
“In some areas, when it’s not necessary for the coating to be permanent and you want it to be removable, this chemistry may be applied to existing coating materials to make it reversible,” Cheng said. “In general, polyurea and polyurethane are widely used. This chemistry could modify existing materials to make them more dynamic, healable.”
The National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health supported this research. Cheng also is affiliated with the departments of chemistry and of bioengineering, the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, the Institute for Genomic Biology, the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory and the Micro and Nano Technology Laboratory at the U. of I.VIEW VIDEO | Researcher Hanze Ying demonstrates the making and self-healing properties of a new dynamic polymer. | Video produced by Anne Lukeman
Liz Ahlberg | University of Illinois
A new tool for discovering nanoporous materials
23.05.2017 | Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
Did you know that packaging is becoming intelligent through flash systems?
23.05.2017 | Heraeus Noblelight GmbH
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.
In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
24.05.2017 | Event News
24.05.2017 | Information Technology
24.05.2017 | Awards Funding