UCR researchers develop self-healing polymer

On Tuesday, April 4, UCR Assistant Professor of Chemistry Chao Wang, along with several other researchers, announced that they designed a new type of polymer that has the capability of healing itself. This polymer has the ability to stretch up to 50 times its size as well as “stitch itself” back together within 24 hours, should there be a crack.

Historically, similar products have had difficulty functioning properly in areas of high humidity. However, Wang’s new polymer is able to function normally in these climates.

This new polymer also has the ability to conduct electricity and has the potential to be used in phone screens or even as phone batteries. This is due to the polymer being made from two covalent bonds that form an “ion-dipole,” which causes the polymer to become an ionic conductor.

Postdoctoral chemistry student Yue Song, who worked with Wang on the project, further explained what makes this polymer unique. “We made it (the polymer), for the first time into a real-world application because with previous self-healing materials they had potential applications, but for ours we show you the applications.”

In a teleconference interview, marketing consultant Sri Peruvemba, while not familiar with the polymer said, “These kinds of material can be very, very useful. It has a lot of potential.” Peruvemba also emphasized the importance of the self-healing and humidity-resistant characteristics that Wang’s polymer possesses. He explained that with these features, the polymer could potentially change the technology industry as a whole since the polymer could also be applied to other forms of technology, such as robotics.

While the polymer is continuously modified and updated, Wang believes that it has the potential to be used in smartphones within the next three years. Song reiterated this and added that it is very likely another company or research team will take their design and improve upon it as well.

Other members of the research team include Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder Christoph Keplinger and two of Keplinger’s graduate students, Timothy Morrissey and Eric Acome. From UCR, other members include a postdoctoral researcher working with Wang, Yue Cao,  Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Environmental Engineering Bryan Wong and one of Wong’s graduate students, Sarah Alec.

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