Tyres that repair themselves

Scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Polymer Research, in Germany, have produced non-vulcanised tyre-grade rubber. The resulting material heals itself and could potentially withstand the long-term pressures of driving.

Vulcanisation involves adding curatives, such as sulphur, to make rubber more durable while maintaining its elasticity. But once it has been punctured it cannot be patched for long-term use. Amit Das and his colleagues from the Leibniz Institute are developing their product to address this.

Using a chemical process that avoids vulcanisation altogether, the researchers have modified commercial rubber into a durable, elastic material that can fix itself over time. Testing showed that a cut in the material healed at room temperature, a property that could allow a tyre to mend itself while parked. Heating to 100°C for the first 10 minutes was said to accelerate the repair process. After eight days, the rubber could withstand a stress of 754psi.

The researchers said their product could be further strengthened by adding reinforcing agents such as silica or carbon black.

Tom Austin-Morgan

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