Ok, raise your hand if this has happened to you before. You walk out of the cell phone store, shiny new smartphone in hand. You were too cheap to buy one of the cases off the shelf, thinking you’ll just get one online for a whole lot less. Then, to your horror, your elbow gets bumped and you watch in slow motion as your new precious slowly falls to the concrete, leaving a spider-web-array of cracks all over the phone.
In the not-so-distant future, however, a new breakthrough in self-healing plastic could make those cracks a thing of the past.
Ludwik Leibler, who discovered vitrimers, is a materials scientist at the ESCPI Institute in Paris, France. The school is also famous for another pretty smart scientist, Marie Curie.
Leibler is the winner of the 2015 Inventor Award in the research category from the Eurpoean Patent Office. His discovery is expected to have a very wide impact.
“We think that the first applications will be in transport, in cars, in planes, in all the applications you have that need toughness, for repair and increasing durability of your objects,” says Liebler, who was inspired by the shape-shifting ways of the T-1000 in ‘Terminator 2.’
There are two families of plastics, thermoplastics and thermosets. Thermoplastics are malleable when heated but become fixed in a solid shape when cooled, and cannot be reformed. Thermosets are rigid and retain their form even when heated.
Vitrimers seem to combine several properties from both of these plastics, being able to be reheated and reconstituted an infinite number of times. Leibler says that while vitrimers take properties of both worlds, they are fundamentally different than other plastics.
They combine this permanent network, resistance, dimensional stability with the possibility of being malleable, (and) completely recyclable.
Leibler describes the new family of polymers as a “young family” that has almost limitless applications and could one day render plastics as we know them obsolete.
Until we get to that point though, it might be a good idea to get a case on that phone.
What do you think? Would it be cool to run a broken phone under a heat gun for a few minutes and return it to like-new condition? Let us know what you think, and your ideas where this kind of plastic could be a game changer.Source: CNN