'Terminator' Polymer: Self-Healing Polyurethane Bonds Itself Back Together In A Scientific First [VIDEO]

By Josh Lieberman on September 17, 2013 12:07 PM EDT

terminator
A new polymer which can be torn apart and self-heal has been dubbed the "terminator" polymer. (Photo: YouTube screenshot)

A researcher in Spain has created a ground-breaking polymer that can repair itself after being torn apart -- without any heat or bonding substances. The self-healing polymer calls to mind the famous scene in Terminator 2 in which T-1000 is shot in the head, only to have the bullet hole close of its own accord. Unsurprisingly, the new self-healing polymer has been dubbed the "terminator" polymer by its creators, CIDETEC Centre for Electrochemical Technologies in San Sebastian, Spain.

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Last year, CIDETEC scientists created a precursor to the terminator polymer using silver particles. That polymer required pressure to bind back together, and the silver made the whole thing too expensive to have practical, widespread application. This time around, a team of CIDETEC scientists led by Ibon Odriozola created a self-healing polymer out of polyurethane, a common material.

In a demonstration video (below) the terminator polymer is pulled apart and then gently pushed back together. After two hours, the terminator polymer is almost magically one piece again. During those two hours, "the metathesis reaction of aromatic disulphides, which naturally exchange at room temperature, causes regeneration." That's a scientific way of basically saying that the stuff Velcros or glues itself back together, in this case with a shockingly good 97 percent healing efficiency. The terminator polymer can even be pulled like Stretch Armstrong, returning to its original shape when it's put down (much like Stretch).

There are a number of potential applications for CIDETEC's terminator polymer. The material could be used in machines that use plastic parts which are subjected to frequent strain; instead of a repairman swapping out a broken plastic part, imagine if the part could heal itself. While the current terminator polymer is too soft to replace most hard plastic parts, Ibon Odriozola and his team at CIDETEC plan to create a harder version.

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