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The material could be used to create self-repairing sealants, scratch-resistant paints, and more reliable fiber-reinforced plastic components.
Self-healing polymers are extemely attractive materials, but creating the "ideal" polymer is far from easy, and compromises are in order. So far, scientists have mainly approached the problem from two angles: they've either used a network of embedded microcapsules containing a healing agent (which can only heal the material a limited number of times), or materials that can heal indefinitely because they are bound together by reversible chemical reactions (but need a large amount of energy as a catalyst).
The research team headed by Christopher Barner-Kowollik used a third approach. They created a "switchable network" of crosslinked fibers or small molecules that are bonded by a reversible chemical reaction. The peculiarity of this material is that the fibers can be broken down into their constituents and then reassembled again when heat is applied.
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