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Miracle 1: A Self-Healing Rubber

From Scientific American, word of a new “self-healing” rubber that can be cut and rejoined at the same spot simply by pressing the broken parts together.

The material’s secret is its molecular structure, which resembles a plate of spaghetti, says physicist Ludwik Leibler of the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris, who led the research team. The strands straighten out when pulled, but they relax back to their tangled shape when the tension is released. The result is a rubber that can stretch to six times its resting length, the group reports in the journal Nature. The self-mending occurs because each strand consists of numerous small molecules of vegetable fat linked to each other and to far-flung neighbors via relatively weak hydrogen bonds, the same chemical bonds that give water molecules their cohesiveness. When the material was cut or ripped, the severed bonds remained chemically sticky for each other.

Potential applications include sealants, pavement, and medical pouches. No word yet on self-sealing tires. Arkema is working on scaling up production for more research.

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