Flinders University scientists have created a new rubber material that can be completely repaired and returned to its original strength in minutes.
It does this even at room temperature with the help of an amine catalyst and could lead to the creation of flexible, repairable, sustainable objects – including car tyres.
According to the scientists led by associate professor Justin Chalker, the new material is made from cheap and plentiful industrial waste products sulfur, canola cooking oil and dicyclopentadiene (DCPD) derived from petroleum refining.
A Planet Ark report suggests that each year in Australia, the equivalent of 48 million tyres reach the end of their life, and only 16% of these are domestically recycled.
Around two-thirds of used tyres in Australia end up in landfill, are stockpiled, illegally dumped or have an unknown fate.
Each passenger car tyre contains approximately 1.5kg of steel, 0.5kg of textiles and 7 kg of rubber. This represents both a waste of resources and creates health and environmental issues.
According to Chalker’s team – who worked with colleagues from the Universities of Liverpool and Western Australia to usher in the breakthrough – the new rubber can also be used as a ‘latent adhesive’.
“The rubber bonds to itself when the amine catalyst is applied to the surface. The adhesion is stronger than many commercial glues,” says University of Liverpool researcher Dr Tom Hasell.
“The polymer is also resistant to water and corrosion.”
The Flinders team further adds that rubber bricks made out of this polymer can be chemically joined by applying the catalyst.
Image and content: Flinders University