A flat tire can result into quite a tiresome experience and at times a very frustrating one. Thanks to new technology, you might not have to experience this ordeal anymore. A research is being carried out in Europe that is focused on how a damaged tire will be able to heal itself within a few minutes.
Right now, the manufacturing process for tires employs the use of vulcanization process. The process adds sulfur along with other compounds thus enhancing the durability of the finished product by creating cross-links between the polymer chains that are responsible for making up the material. The only downside being that once these links are broken they can’t be repaired.
A team comprised of scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Polymer Research in Germany, the Tampere University of Technology in Finland and the Dresden University of Technology in Germany are working through this limitation by taking out the vulcanization process from the manufacturing process.
The team has learned that by imparting a nitrogen/carbon compound they are able to acquire the same effect with the added benefit of polymer links being able to form again after having being broken.
In a series of tests, the rubber created using this process exhibited its healing power by tackling cuts in them at room temperature. Heating the rubber to 100 ºC for the first ten minutes sped up the process. After 8 days, the healed pieces of rubber were capable of withstanding pressures of up to 52 bar. The team speculates that adding reinforcing agents such as carbon black or silica would enhance the self-healing rubber’s strength even more.