Food additive restores damaged polymers to full strength

October 16th, 2008 - 2:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Oct 16 (IANS) Food additives in damaged polymers can help restore them to full strength, say Illinois University scientists who cooked up the novel, self-healing system. “While our previous solvent worked well for healing, it was also toxic,” said Scott White, a professor of aerospace engineering and a researcher at the university’s Beckman Institute. “Our new solvent is both non-toxic and less expensive.”

During normal use, epoxy-based materials experience stresses that can cause cracking, which can lead to mechanical failure. Autonomic self-healing - a process in which the damage itself triggers the repair mechanism - can retain structural integrity and extend the lifetime of the material.

Designed to mimic the human body’s ability to repair wounds, self-healing materials release a healing agent into the crack plane when damaged, and through chemical and physical processes, restore the material’s initial fracture properties.

In November 2007, White and collaborators reported the use of chlorobenzene, a common - but toxic - organic solvent, which in epoxy resins achieved a healing efficiency of up to 82 percent, according to an Illinois University release.

In their latest work, the researchers achieved a healing efficiency of 100 percent.

These findings were published in Advanced Functional Materials.

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