Scientists Developing Self-Repairing Plastic Material
October 31, 2011

Scientists Developing Self-Repairing Plastic Material

A UK-based specialty chemical company has apparently developed a self-mending plastic that can repair itself without the need for glue, tape, or other materials, Telegraph Science Correspondent Richard Gray reported on Sunday.

"It could mean that sitting on a pair of glasses may no longer be the disaster it once was as they could be quickly repaired by pushing the broken bits back together," Gray said. "The material could also put an end to broken children's toys as they could be easily put back together even after the most destructive play session."

The technology, which is being developed by AkzoNobel with assistance from Dutch scientists from the Eindhoven University of Technology, is described as a supramolecular polymer. It is known as Supra B and utilizes hydrogen bonding, which takes advantage of the natural attraction between hydrogen atoms and other atoms, such as oxygen or nitrogen, the Telegraph reporter added.

In addition to glasses or toys, Graham Armstrong, corporate director of research, development and innovation at AkzoNobel, told Gray that it could also be used to repair automobiles, thus avoiding the need for potentially costly body work following a car wreck. Other AkzoNobel officials say that it could also lead to new scratch-resistant coatings for vehicles, laptop computers, and similar devices.

"We are working on polymers that are able to heal themselves," Armstrong told Gray. "They use supramolecular chemistry, which exploits some of the lessons we have learned from the way proteins bind together in biology. It means we can have solids that genuinely can heal."

Gray says that the scientists working on Supra B have managed to "quadruple the number of hydrogen bonds between the small plastic, or polymer, molecules so that it is as strong as other forms of plastic, but does not require a chemical reaction to join them together."

"What we want to do“¦ is to adapt this principle, using either this chemistry or a similar one, to create a hard, protective coating that exhibits good self-healing," AkzoNobel Chief Scientist Andrew Burgess told the Telegraph. "We are very excited by this prospect and we are seeking out the very best collaborations we can to help us on this journey."


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