German scientists developed a new way of making car tires that could potentially heal itself. This process will avoid the step of vulcanization, invented accidentally by Charles Goodyear in 1839. The paper is published in the journal American Chemical Society (ACS) Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Vulcanization is what makes the rubber elastic, by adding sulfur to the mix. But there is a problem to this since “once an errant piece of glass or other sharp object pierces a tire, it can’t be patched for long-term use,” the researchers say in an ACS press release.

An alternative to vulcanization may lead to tire rubber that repairs itself. Credit: VGWInsurance

Using bromobutyl rubber, containing bromine atoms, scientists avoid vulcanization and create chemical ionic bonds that could heal themselves. Amit Das, the leader of the study, claimed that he was inspired by a rubber-like substance invention made by the French in 2008, according to Lighthouse News.

“Modification of commercially available butyl rubber into a self-healing product by simple ionic transformation has not been reported before,” the team says, according to Pierce Pioneer.

After testing this material, researchers say that it “showed that a cut in the material healed at room temperature, a property that could allow a tire to mend itself while parked. And after 8 days, the rubber could withstand a stress of 754 pounds per square inch. Heating it to 212 degrees Fahrenheit for the first 10 minutes accelerated the repair process”.

“This simple and easy approach to preparing a commercial rubber with self-healing properties offers unique development opportunities in the field of highly engineered materials, such as tires, for which safety, performance, and longer fatigue life are crucial factors”, scientists conclude, according to an ACS press release.

Source: ACS