A new, Wolverine-inpsired, highly stretchable, transparent, and self-healing material may lead to a breakthrough as its possible utilizations span over quite a few domains.
Wolverine is one of the most famous X-Men. The comic book-based character has his own set of special powers. His ability to self-heal is one of his most useful assets. But what was once seen as impossibility may have just turned real.
A team of researchers has developed a new, seemingly impossible material. This can self-heal, is highly stretchable, and also transparent.
According to Chao Wang, such a set of features has been puzzling researchers for years. Wang is a paper author and part of the team to have developed the material.
The research team is made of University of California, Riverside researchers. University of Colorado, Boulder scientists have also contributed. Research results were released earlier this week.
The study was published on December 23 in the Advanced Materials journal. It was titled as follows. “A Transparent, Self-Healing, Highly Stretchable Ionic Conductor”.
It offers details on the material and its functions. Materials often incur damages caused by mechanical wear. Their new material should be able to heal itself after encountering such problems.
This should help expand its lifetime. It would also contribute to lowering the cost of the devices which are based on it.
Wolverine, the aforementioned comic book character, was at the base of the idea. Wang stated that he has been a lifelong fan. As such, he has been trying to transpose his abilities to real-life capabilities.
The highly stretchable material is based on ionic conductors. These are an already widely utilized class.
They have key roles in solar energy conversion and energy storage. Ionic conductors are also used in electronic devices and in sensors.
Several previous tests have managed to achieve some of the current properties. Highly stretchable and transparent ionic conductors are already available.
The current material distinguishes itself through its healing. Self-healing polymers that use non-covalent bonds have been previously developed.
However, these bonds have been known to be affected by electromechanical reactions. These degraded and diminished the materials’ performance.
Still, Wang and the team solved this issue. He used ion-dipole interactions, a new mechanism. These are the force relation between polar molecules and charged ions. Such forces are highly stable in electromechanical conditions.
Wang achieved such an effect by combining two sources. One was a high-ionic-strength, mobile salt. The other was a stretchable, polar polymer.
Their combination led to the combination of the wished-for material. This was both highly stretchable, transparent, and self-healing.
It is easy and cost-effective to produce. Tests show that it can stretch up to 50 times when compared to its initial length.
At room temperature, it can heal or re-attach itself after being cut. The process takes about 24 hours. Actually, the process is somewhat even faster. A 5 minutes healing period will account for a twice its length stretch.
Such a material could come to have a great variety of uses. It could come to be used in a wide range of domains.
For example, it could come to stretch lithium ion batteries lifetimes. As such, they would expand the working hours of electric cars and electronics.
They could also be used in robotics. By equipping robots with it, they could self-heal after mechanical failures.
Environmental monitoring and the medical field would also be advantaged. After all, the highly stretchable material was inspired by the natural self-healing process.
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