Polymers that can Self Repair Cracks

An American team lead by Jeff Moore at the Beckmann Institute at the University of Illinois are developing an epoxy composite material that has the ability to cracks when they appear.

Epoxy composites currently find applications in many areas ranging from circuit boards to automotive components through to aircraft parts. The cracking and subsequent failure of such items can have catastrophic results.

The new polymer contains microcapsules of dicyclopentadiene (DCPD) and particles of a ruthenium complex called Grubb’s catalyst. In this material, when a crack appears, it would rupture a DCPD capsule. The DCPD would then react with the Grubb’s catalyst, triggering a metathesis polymerisation reaction. This in turn cross links the DCPD into a sticky material that seals the crack.

The biggest drawback to the current system is that the DCPD-Grubb’s catalyst combination is extremely costly. Hence, Moore and his team are investigating alternative materials to achieve a similar effect.

For more information on epoxy composites, click here.

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