There was suddenly found a new class of polymers in IBM

22.05.14

Scientists from IBM Research Center announced that they were able to create a new class of industrial polymers. The material is extremely resistant to mechanical damage, is able to regenerate itself and it is recyclable. Using the polymer will help to optimize the mass of processes in transport, aerospace industries and microelectronics manufacturing. Additionally, these materials may be converted into a new polymeric structures to further enhance the effectiveness and strength by 50%.

As polymers are an integral part of not only daily life, but also the part of high computing technologies, the development of a new class of these substances will begin another course of development of all branches of any industry. Existing polymers have a number of disadvantages that materials scientists are trying to overcome now.

Due to the wide spectrum of usage of these substances - they are constantly exposed to aggressive action from the outside: thermal and mechanical damage, chemical exposure, and so on. Polymeric materials wear out quickly, they are not able to repair itself and can not be recycled. Because of this landfills (and not only them) are completely overwhelmed by these substances, which also contain toxins and other harmful substances on their surfaces .

The leading author of the new study, James Hedrick, a materials specialist and organic chemist, along with his team set out to develop a material which would have properties that could be set in advance, depending on the needs of a particular industry. To do this, the researchers turned to a method of computational chemistry and using a computer they crafted a model of hypothetical structure of the new material.

As a result, they got polymers which have in their basis two adjacent grades of plastic. They are formed by combining the paraformaldehyde and 4,4-oxydianiline by condensation process. When it's heated to 250 ° C the material becomes an extremely durable due to formation of covalent connections and displacing the solvent. So it turns out the first of two versions of the polymer.

It demonstrates new physical properties. The first material is resistant to cracking, lightweight and durable, but it is brittle as glass. If it will be connected to the carbon nanofibers and heat, the polymer forms a very strong, lightweight composite material that looks like metal, but it has the ability to heal itself in the event of cracks.

Another version of the material is an elastic gel. It is formed at low temperatures and captures a solvent in its molecular network. The ability of gel-polymer to recover itself is considerably higher - if you cut it into two parts and then join them together, they will grow together in seconds. According to a press release from IBM, such material can be used as a glue or for the transportation of dyes and medicines.

"New innovative material suits for solution of global problems in the development of new products and the application of advanced technologies. Use of acidified water will allow to recycle that material, which will give us a new step in the development of the transport industry and  electronic circuits production", - concludes Hedrick. 

 

 

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