Japanese researchers develop plastic with self-repairing powers
Japanese researchers have found a way to create “self-repairing plastics” that can be used in many products and reduce the amount of waste now polluting the planet.
It might have practical applications for home electronics, furniture, smartphone screens, eyeglass frames, aircraft, and cars.
Their findings were presented at the annual conference of the Chemical Society of Japan.
Takuzo Aida, a chemistry professor at the University of Tokyo, and his colleagues said a tiny amount of a specialized agent mixed into ordinary plastic can automatically heal cracks and fissures.
The process, according to Aida, might lead to the production of long-lasting, sustainable plastic that does not need to be wasted or recycled.
According to a report released in February by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), only 9% of plastics were recycled globally in 2019.
Non-recycled plastics are buried or burnt, and some of them end up in the ocean. Plastic is especially harmful to the environment since it does not degrade in nature.
Aida and others created a polymeric material called polyether thiourea in 2018 that can self-heal damage when its pieces are rubbed against one other at ambient temperature.
In the most recent study, the scientists applied the same plastic substance at a 20 percent rate to another plastic ingredient that did not have a self-repair capability.
The findings revealed that the mixed plastic may self-repair at room temperature.
Plastic is made up of several linked chains of molecules. When plastic materials degrade, the molecular linkages dissolve.
To repair molecular linkages, items made of regular plastic must be melted at high temperatures.
Hydrogen bonding is a process that the newly discovered plastic uses to repair damaged molecular chains. Damaged parts can be fully repaired by putting them together at room temperature for about an hour.
The team claims that scars inside the plastic that are not visible to the human eye can also be treated.
If varied amounts of components are utilized, the scientists expect the method can generate self-mending plastics with various properties.