A newly developed car tire repairs itself, and is sturdier and more reliable than ever, according to experts. This means that obnoxious flat tires may soon be a thing of the past, provided that this invention becomes commercially available.
The self-healing rubber was presented in a study published in the journal Applied Materials and Interfaces, of the American Chemical Society. It was invented by a team of scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Polymer Research, the Tampere University of Technology and the Dresden University of Technology.
According to these researchers from Germany and Finland, the rubber they created requires no vulcanization, an essential step in the manufacturing process of tires, ever since their invention.
In its original form, rubber consists in a multitude of tangled molecule strands, which break apart under stress. Vulcanization consists in adding sulfur or another substance to give durability to automobile tires without diminishing their elasticity.
The downside is that when the rubber is torn or pierced by sharp objects, it cannot be patched properly. As a result, it becomes unfit for long-term use and has to be discarded.
Other teams of researchers have been working on inventing self-repairing prototypes before, but this is the first time that such an attempt has been successful in creating materials that can stand the test of time.
The researchers used popular and easily accessible bromobutyl rubber, and converted it into a material that is self-healing and highly elastic, thanks to carbon and nitrogen agents which form reversible ionic bonds. These properties hold true especially when the fabric is heated or under tensile stress.
While strength can be enhanced through agents like silica or carbon black, the newly invented tire is much more easily stretched, and doesn’t fail or break when pulled with great force.
As study leader Amit Das notes, the technique consists in “converting commercially available and widely used rubber into a highly elastic material with extraordinary self-healing properties without using conventional cross-linking or vulcanizing agents”.
Scientists tested these properties at room temperature, to discover if the tire could potentially repair itself after being punctured, while the car is parked outside. Although the trial was successful, it was discovered that the healing process is much faster when the rubber is heated to 212 degrees Fahrenheit in the first 10 minutes.
According to measurements, 8 days after its self-repair, the material’s tensile strength is so high that it can remain unaffected under stress values of up to 745 pounds per square inch. This is 20 times higher than the average pressure tires have to withstand.
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