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Nat Chem. 2012 Apr 1;4(6):467-72. doi: 10.1038/nchem.1314.

Multiphase design of autonomic self-healing thermoplastic elastomers.

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Department of Chemistry, 1102 Natural Sciences 2, University of California, Irvine, California 92697, USA.


The development of polymers that can spontaneously repair themselves after mechanical damage would significantly improve the safety, lifetime, energy efficiency and environmental impact of man-made materials. Most approaches to self-healing materials require the input of external energy, healing agents, solvent or plasticizer. Despite intense research in this area, the synthesis of a stiff material with intrinsic self-healing ability remains a key challenge. Here, we show a design of multiphase supramolecular thermoplastic elastomers that combine high modulus and toughness with spontaneous healing capability. The designed hydrogen-bonding brush polymers self-assemble into a hard-soft microphase-separated system, combining the enhanced stiffness and toughness of nanocomposites with the self-healing capability of dynamic supramolecular assemblies. In contrast to previous self-healing polymers, this new system spontaneously self-heals as a single-component solid material at ambient conditions, without the need for any external stimulus, healing agent, plasticizer or solvent.

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