Melbourne, Sep 6 (ANI): It seems that a chemistry team in the US has found the key to producing a plastic that can heal itself.
Graduate student Jeremy Lenhardt was apparently testing the limits of polymers - molecules that form the basis for materials in our daily lives such as silicon, rubber and neoprene - in the chemistry lab at Duke University in North Carolina.
He happened to stumble across one particular species polymers, which contained ring-shaped molecules called gem-difluorocyclopropanes, and when stretched, remained in that state for much longer than expected, before shrinking back to even smaller rings.
"To come across this discovery was a bit like having Christmas in July. And then August. And then September," News.com.au quoted Lenhardt as saying.
"I ran up to his (colleague Stephen Craig) office (and said) 'Steve, something funny is going on here. Look at this!'" he added.
Craig said it was far too early to predict how the discovery would impact on our daily lives and was "reluctant to speculate" - but he did anyway.
"Imagine that when small holes are formed in a piece of stretched plastic, the molecules in the plastic around it have gone into this "overstretched" state, so that once the stretching is over, they pull back even closer than before and help to mend the hole," he said.
The polymers that Lenhardt studied held their transition states for much, much longer, Craig said, opening up the possibility of forming entirely new materials in a crisis.
"Perhaps these transition states that are trapped might be induced to form new bonds in a plastic right before it rips catastrophically," he said.
"Maybe the greatest contribution of this work is that it opens up new possibilities to consider.
"I suspect that whatever impact Jeremy's discovery has on future applications, it is most likely to be as a part of something that we haven't considered yet," he added. (ANI)