They may not exist outside laboratories, but self-healing polymers are fantastic. When they rip, they’re normally held under a UV ray for 30 minutes, and they repair themselves. But new research breakthroughs have cut that time down to a minute.
According to Ars Technica, typical self-healing polymers rely on organic compounds and chemical bonds to repair themselves. This rubbery new polymer relies instead on covalent bonds and local heating to accomplish the same task:
For their self-healing tests, Burnworth and his team shaped the polymers into films that were 350 to 400 µM thick. They purposefully cut the polymer to about 50 to 70 percent of the overall thickness of the film. When the cuts were exposed to two consecutive 30-second rounds of UV light (320 to 390 nm wavelength at an intensity of 950 mW cm-2), the cuts sealed up. The healed material was comparable in toughness to the original polymeric film, and images from atomic force spectroscopy show that the cuts essentially disappeared.