Scientists from CIDETEC Centre for Electrochemical Technologies in San Sebastian, Spain have created the world’s first self-healing polymer that can repair itself without any intervention. The scientists named the polymer material ‘Terminator’ in a tribute to the molten T-1000 robot developed by Skynet to be nearly indestructible. The material is composed of a poly (urea-urethane) elastomeric matrix, a network of complex molecular interactions that will spontaneously cross-link to “heal” any break. Here, the word “spontaneous” means that the material needs no outside intervention or catalyst to begin its healing process. The polymer displays Velcro-like adhesive behavior with an impressive 97 per cent healing efficiency in just two hours. The researchers show that after cutting the material into two separate pieces with a razor blade and allowing it to self-heal, the material is unbreakable when stretched manually.
Scientists potentially could use future versions of the polymer to create artificial skin to protect wounds while they heal. A graft of the healing polymer provided to a child as an artificial skin might be able to keep up with the child’s growth and provide a barrier against germs. The Terminator material might also be injected like an adhesive. Its superior combination of elasticity and strength could help bring the self-healing advantage to painful joints in need of a cushion to stop bones from rubbing together.
The research is published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Materials Horizons: Catalyst-free room-temperature self-healing elastomers based on aromatic disulfide metathesis