If you’ve ever gotten a flat, have two options, pray that it can be patched, or shell out big bucks for a replacement. Even run flats aren’t really designed for permanent use. Thankfully, scientists have just created the world’s first self-healing rubber and the possibilities for its use are endless.
The discovery comes from the big brains over at Harvard and was made even more difficult by the science behind rubber. The bonds between rubber molecules are permanent, covalent bonds that can’t be reformed once broken, so they had to come up with a way to make the bonds reversible. They did this with a newly developed molecular rope.
The result is a self-healing rubber that redistributes stress, preventing the rubber from cracking and allowing any cracks that do form to heal once the stress is released. But, the new rubber isn’t exactly ready to meet the road, at least not yet, according to David A. Weitz, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and Applied Physics:
“There is still a lot more to do. For materials science, it is not fully understood why this hybrid rubber exhibits crazes when stretched,” Weitz said. “For engineering, the applications of the hybrid rubber that take advantage of its exceptional combination of optical transparency, toughness, and self-healing ability remain to be explored. Moreover, the concept of using molecular design to mix covalent and reversible bonds to create a homogenous hybrid elastomer is quite general and should enable development of tough, self-healing polymers of practical usage.”