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Content archived on 2024-05-29

Design and synthesis of self-healing polymer systems


The aim of this research is to develop self-healing polymer systems that will be expected to mimic many of the features of a biological system. In nature, damage to an organism elicits a healing response. We are applying the same concept to synthetic material design, creating a self-healing polymer system.

The self-healing system proposed here is based on incorporating microencapsulated mixtures of mono- and di-functional norbornene monomers (healing agent) and Grubbs ruthenium initiators (catalyst) within the epoxy resin (polymer matrix). When a crack is formed in the polymer matrix the embedded microcapsules are ruptured releasing healing agent into the crack plane.

Polymerisation of the healing agent is then triggered by contact with the embedded catalyst, bonding the crack faces and self-healing process is accomplished. Urea-formaldehyde microcapsules containing healing agents will be prepared in situ polymerisation in an oil-in-water emulsion. The polymerisation reactions will be based on ring opening metathesis polymerisation (ROMP) process involving rapid polymerisation of mixtures of mono- and di-functional norbornene monomers in the presence of Grubbs ruthenium initiators at room temperature to form crosslinked and very tough polymers.

The self-healing process will be studied by Environmental Scanning Electron Microscopy (ESEM) and Infrared spectroscopy (IR). The healing efficiency will be investigated using fracture toughness tests. The concept of self-healing process will have far-reaching consequences for improving product safety and reliability. One of the major applications of the self-healing process is anticipated to be in medicine.

Once implanted in the body, prosthetics and other medical devices are difficult to monitor and access for re pair. The self-healing technology proposed here could prevent problems caused by damaged pacemakers, hip and knee replacements, dental materials, and other medical devices.

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