Scientists from IBM Research have discovered a new class of polymer materials, says IBM. These new materials have demonstrated resistance to cracking, is stronger than bone, can self-heal to their original shape, and are also completely recyclable back to their starting material, say the researchers.  Research collaborators include UC Berkeley, Eindhoven University of Technology and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia. The new materials can potentially transform manufacturing and fabrication in the fields of transportation, aerospace, and microelectronics, says IBM.

Polymers, a long chain of molecules that are connected through chemical bonds, are a core material in common items ranging from clothing and drink bottles (polyesters), paints (polyacrylics), plastic milk bottles (polyethylene), secure food packaging (polyolefins, polystyrene) to major parts of cars and planes (epoxies, polyamides and polyimides). Polymers are also used in building electronic devices, like computers or cell phones.

Also, the ability to selectively recycle a structural component would have significant impact in the semiconductor industry, advanced manufacturing or advanced composites for transportation, as one would be able to rework high-value but defective manufactured parts or chips instead of throwing them away.

IBM scientists used a ‘computational chemistry’ approach to accelerate the materials discovery process that couples lab experimentation with the use of high-performance computing to model new polymer forming reactions.

[Image courtesy: IBM]