“Are there materials that can “heal” themselves when torn?”
Have you ever had the misfortune of having a rubber material rendered useless just because you’ve torn it? Wouldn’t it be nice to have some form of rubber in which the object can heal itself once it becomes damaged?
Well, how about instead of being in dismay over such an issue, we take action and use our technical mind to solve the problems! First of all, let’s think of the root cause. Rubber materials obtain their strength from the fact that they are composed of multiple polymer molecules being crosslinked through three different ways: Covalent, ionic, and hydrogen bonding. However, only hydrogen bonding can revert to it’s original structure after being deformed. So wouldn’t it be logical that if we only had the rubber composed of hydrogen bonds, then it would be completely mendable?
Well, this is exactly the working principle behind smart rubber. Smart rubber is rubber composed entirely of hydrogen bonds, so that it “heal” itself when necessary (at near room temperature). Smart rubber can be used to create items such as shoes and tires that can repair themselves after intense use. Smart rubber is better for the environment since it encourages less waste. The one downside of Smart rubber is that it is weaker than normal rubber by nature, as the material lacks the extra structure of the covalent and ionic bonds.