Researchers at IIT Kharagpur have invented a smart polymeric material which can be healed or self-repaired by heating if there are micro-cracks or scratches. The research team at the Institute’s Centre for Rubber Technology under the leadership of Prof. Nikhil Singha has developed acrylic polymers having specific functional groups. The product is created through a single step reaction with the post-polymerization process taking less than a minute. Organic compounds required for the product are also readily available at economical prices.
This material can be used as a coating on glass or metal adds an ultrafast self-healing capacity without the use of any external reagent. This could be of significant use in industrial products and consumer products which are painted as finished products and are damage prone such as vehicles, glass exteriors etc.
This process of self-healing or intrinsic healing is achieved only through the application of temperature at about 130-degree Celsius. The repairing process is completed in less than an hour. The properties of the material will not be changed even after self-repairing.
So the removal of a scratch on your new car may not need a fresh paint anymore but only heating, if coated with this material while production. This will also bring down repairing cost as external reagents are not required.
This material will have applications in self-repairing coatings and paintings in the respective industries, as commented by Prof. Singha who has recently been awarded Fellowship of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, UK. The research has recently been featured in the ChemComm published by the Royal Society of Chemistry, London.
“This is relatively a new area research with the first research paper being published in Nature Chemistry only in 2014. However, the novelty of the research by the IIT Kharagpur team is the self-healing quality and non-requirement of external reagent unlike previous research which makes repairs faster and capable of sustaining multiple repairs” said researcher Prantik Mondal.
“We are also working to make this anti-fouling, anti-bacterial etc,” added Prof. Singha.
In fact, Prof. Singha’s research group is working in the development of self-healing polymeric material based on controlled polymerization and Diels-Alder ‘click’ reaction during last several years. One of their works was featured in Editor’s spotlight article in Materials Views published by Wiley in 2013. However, this present self-healing system is much faster than earlier one.