University of Colorado at Boulder researchers have developed a new polymer that resists cracking and shrinking, paving the way for creative breakthroughs in fields ranging from dentistry and microelectronics to the auto industry.
CU-Boulder chemical and biological engineering department Chair Christopher Bowman said polymers, or plastics -- which are made up of identical molecules linked by chemical bonds to form repeating chains or webs -- generally show an increase in strain and stress when they are treated with heat or chemicals to cure them. But the new polymer, which has a complex chemical formula like most polymers, maintains its strength even while showing reduced stress and strain when exposed to light, according to Bowman.
The researchers, who have filed for a patent on the novel polymerization process, said the new process may be ideal for use by dentists, who cure polymer fillings with light rather than high temperatures to achieve the desired strength and shape. Composite cavity-filling materials today have a tendency to shrink and even leak over time as the polymer cracks due to the stresses and becomes more rigid as it sets. This often leads to additional dental problems, he said.
Christopher Bowman | EurekAlert!
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