Circular economy-friendly gel can be used in durable, flexible devices – ScienceDaily

A research team consisting of NIMS, Hokkaido University, and Yamaguchi University has developed a method for easily fabricating a self-healing polymer gel made of ultra-high molecular weight (UHMW) polymers (polymers with a molecular weight greater than 10)6 g/mol) and non-volatile ionic liquids. This recyclable, self-healing polymer gel is compliant with the principles of the circular economy. In addition, it can be used as a durable ion-conducting material for flexible IoT devices.

Self-healing polymeric materials are able to automatically repair damaged areas, thus extending the life of the material, and thus are expected to promote a circular economy. Most of the self-healing polymeric materials reported in recent years have taken a chemical approach, incorporating functional groups capable of reversible dissociation and reconfiguration (for example, hydrogen bonding) into the polymeric networks. However, this approach often requires precise synthetic techniques and complex fabrication processes. On the other hand, an alternative physical approach (i.e., the use of physical crosslinking of polymer chains) to synthesize versatile polymeric materials with self-healing capabilities has rarely been explored.

This research team recently developed a technique to easily fabricate UHMW gels composed of crosslinked UHMW copolymers using ionic liquids. The mechanical properties of UHMW gels have been found to be superior to those of conventional chemically crosslinked gels. In addition, it can be recycled by heat treatment, and it exhibits high self-healing capabilities at room temperature.

The newly developed UHMW gel material that is recyclable, self-healing, and easy to install is expected to promote the circular economy. In addition, because this material is manufactured using ionic liquids that are non-volatile and flammable, it can be used as a safe soft ion-conducting material in flexible electronics.

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Materials Introduction of National Institute of Materials Science, Japan. Note: Content can be modified by style and length.

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