Universally Autonomous self-healing materials

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About Our Group:

Our lab is located in Department of Chemical Engineering and Technology at Tianjin University, China. Our research interests mainly focus on the development of e-skin materials, antibiofouling, antimicrobial, cryopreservation, and anti-freeze materials.

The photo of our group. (Middle: Prof. Lei Zhang)

The story behind the paper:

Synthetic materials that can mimic self-healable? natural tissues such as skins and muscles are now widely applied in e-skin, wearable electronic devices, and artificial muscles, because their self-healing properties can significantly improve the longevity, robustness, and safety of these devices.

However, as we explore to the polar regions, the deep sea, or the space, etc, where the environments are much more extreme, it is very challenging to maintain the self-healing ability of current materials. This is because at low temperatures, the self-healing process can be significantly resisted, while in the aqueous environment, the water molecules can disturb the reconnection of dynamic bonds and thus cause the failure of healing.

This work:

In this publication "Universally autonomous self-healing elastomer with high stretchability", we design a universally self-healing and highly stretchable supramolecular elastomer by synergistically incorporating multi-strength H-bonds and disulfide metathesis in polydimethylsiloxane polymers. We report the first elastomer that can achieve fast autonomous self-healing under universal conditions, including at room temperature (10 min for healing), ultralow temperature (−40°C), underwater (93% healing efficiency), supercooled high-concentrated saltwater (30% NaCl solution at −10°C, 89% efficiency), and strong acid/alkali environment (pH = 0 or 14, 88% or 84% efficiency).

Scheme 1. Design of the supramolecular elastomer with high toughness, stretchability, and universally autonomous self-healing ability.

 

The elastomer shows universally self-healing properties with high efficiency, attributable to the synergistic interaction among the dynamic strong H-bonds, weak H-bonds, and disulfide metathesis bonds in the supramolecular polymer network, as well as the hydrophobicity and the low Tg of polymer backbone.

This work illustrates a promising material with high-stretchable and rapid self-healing properties in multiple harsh conditions. Currently, we are moving on toward the development of self-healing artificial e-skins workable in various extreme environments such as deep sea, polar regions, high temperature flame, etc.

The link for paper in Nature Communications is here: 

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-15949-8

Jing Yang

Assistant Professor, Tianjin University

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