Organic material combines best qualities of resin and glass

‘Revolutionary’ material can be worked like glass
A new material that could revolutionise the automobile, aerospace and electronics industries is said to combine the best qualities of resin and glass.

Inexpensive and easy to produce, the lightweight material is not only reshapable like glass, but it also repairable and recyclable.

According to lead researcher Ludwik Leibler, from France's Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), it can easily go from a liquid to a solid state or vice versa and is even insoluble when heated above its glass transition temperature.

"Replacing metals by lighter but just as efficient materials is a necessity for numerous industries," Leibler explained. "Due to their exceptional mechanical strength and thermal and chemical resistance, composite materials based on thermosetting resins are currently the most suitable.

"However, such resins must be cured in situ, using from the outset the definitive shape of the part to be produced. Once these resins have hardened, welding and repair become impossible."

Created using ingredients that are currently used and readily available in industry, such as epoxy resins, hardeners and catalysts, the new organic material is said to overcome this bottleneck.

According to Leibler, it has the same characteristics as thermosetting resins and rubbers currently used in industry, but is reshapeable at will and can be repaired and recycled under the action of heat.

This property means it can undergo transformations using methods that cannot be envisaged either for thermosetting resins or for conventional plastic materials.

In particular, it makes it possible to produce shapes that are difficult or even impossible to obtain by molding or for which making a mold is too expensive.

Used as the basis of composites, Leibler believes the new material could compete with metals and find extensive applications in sectors such as electronics, car manufacturing, construction, aeronautics and printing.

Laura Hopperton

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