Paper of the week: Hybrid organic–inorganic copolymers with self-healing properties

‘Over the last decade, a broad range of self-healing materials has emerged. Such systems, when they have been damaged, heal themselves either spontaneously or with the aid of a stimulus. Several of these materials draw their inspiration from the design of biological materials. On the other hand, hybrid materials or nanocomposites, defined as composites constituted of two components, one inorganic and the other one organic in nature mixed at the nanometer level, have attracted strong interest both in academia and industry. The combination at the nanoscale of organic and inorganic components leads to highly homogeneous materials, which develop extended organic–inorganic interfaces with tuneable chemical organic–inorganic bonds from weak to strong interactions.’

Graphical abstract: Nano-building block based-hybrid organic–inorganic copolymers with self-healing properties

In this work, Rozes and co-workers prepared new dynamic materials, that can repair themselves after strong damage, by hybridization of polymers with structurally well-defined nanobuilding units. The controlled design of cross-linked poly(n-butyl acrylate) (PnBA) has been performed by introducing a very low amount of a specific tin oxo-cluster. Sacrificial domains with non-covalent interactions (i.e. ionic bonds) developed at the hybrid interface play a double role. Such interactions are strong enough to cross-link the polymer, which consequently exhibits rubber-like elasticity behavior, and labile enough to enable, after severe mechanical damage, dynamic bond recombination leading to an efficient healing process at room temperature. In agreement with the nature of the reversible links at the hybrid interface, the healing process can speed up considerably with temperature .

Nano-building block based-hybrid organic–inorganic copolymers with self-healing properties by F. Potier, A. Guinault, S. Delalande, C. Sanchez, F. Ribot and L. Rozes, Polym. Chem. 2014, 5, 4474-4479.

Julien Nicolas is a web-writer and advisory board member for Polymer Chemistry. He currently works at Univ. Paris-Sud (FR) as a CNRS researcher.

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