Inspenet, November 14, 2023.
A team of scientists from the University of Tokyo has created an innovative self-healing plastic that also has outstanding properties. This new material, known as epoxy resin vitrimer, retains its strength at room temperature and can be easily broken down into its fundamental components, either in recycling facilities or in natural environments.
In the presence of seawater, it begins its decomposition process, becoming a food source for marine life. Additionally, this plastic has the unique ability to self-heal and remember previous shapes, expanding its potential applications.
The end result is an innovative plastic called VPR, which has a wide range of advantages compared to similar materials. After being scratched by a scalpel, it could be completely repaired by heating it to 150°C for just 60 seconds . If it was given a specific shape and then flattened, it could recover its original shape when heated, highlighting its speed compared to other similar plastics.
VPR also has the ability to break down more easily, but only when necessary. The application of heat along with a specific solvent will break its molecular bonds, leaving only the basic components, ready to be used in the creation of new materials. Even when discarded into the environment, it poses fewer problems than other plastics, as evidenced by submerging it in seawater for 30 days. In this period, it biodegraded by 25% and released molecules that are essentially a nutrient for marine life, according to the research team.
” VPR is five times more resistant to breakage than a typical epoxy resin vitrimer ,” said Shota Ando, lead author of the study. “It also repairs itself 15 times faster, can recover its original memorized shape twice as fast, and can chemically recycle 10 times faster than typical vitrimer. It even safely biodegrades in a marine environment, which is new for this material”.
The team claims that this material could be used in various applications that currently use other types of plastic.
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