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article imageNew form of self-healing material discovered by scientists

By Tim Sandle     Feb 24, 2019 in Science
Japanese scientists have discovered a new form of self-healing material. The substance, which is based on ethylene, demonstrates several useful properties such as ‘shape memory’, as well as the ability to self-repair.
The material is constructed from ethylene (the source of many types of plastics) and it represents a growing interest in self-healing materials. Such materials have a number of advantages, ranging from equipment that needs to be situated in extreme environments to the casing used to protect mobile devices.
Many self-healing materials are limited by the costs of manufacture, requiring complex chemistry (such as irreversible or reversible covalent-bond formation, hydrogen bonding, metal-ligand interactions, and ionic interactions) to develop them which limits their commercial potential. Many of these materials also require an external stimulus, such as a given level of heat or a change in pressure, to activate the self-healing process. Such materials also tend to only work under one set of environmental conditions.
The new materials, termed functionalized polyolefins, is much simpler to develop, and it does not require external factors to trigger the self-healing mechanism. Moreover, the material can function autonomously, in terms of self-healing under various conditions.
In tests the material has been shown to have the capability to self-heal without the need for external stimulus under a range of different environmental conditions, such as in water or when subject to acidic and alkali solutions. The material is also very tough.
With the development of the materials, the scientists took the catalyst scandium to create polymers which were composed of alternating sequences of ethylene and anisylpropylenes and shorter ethylene-ethylene segments. This was achieved by the copolymerization of ethylene and anisylpropylenes.
Further with the new materials, they can be both elastic but also display liquid-like properties and be formed into tough elastomers, which can be stretched and then return to the original shape, even after being subject to mechanical damage.
According to lead researcher, Dr. Zhaomin Ho: “We were astounded by the special properties that this class of materials exhibited. We look forward to working to find applications for these different films, which can be made easily from ethylene and other olefins.”
The research has been published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. The research paper is titled “Synthesis of Self-Healing Polymers by Scandium-Catalyzed Copolymerization of Ethylene and Anisylpropylenes”.
More about Material, selfhealing, Chemistry, Biochemistry
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