(September 23, 2015) A cut or torn tire usually means one thing — you have to buy a new one. But some day, that could change. For the first time, scientists have made tire-grade rubber without the processing step — vulcanization — that has been essential to inflatable tires since their invention. The resulting material heals itself and could potentially withstand the long-term pressures of driving. Their report appears in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.
Vulcanization involves adding sulfur or other curatives to make rubber more durable while maintaining its elasticity. But once an errant piece of glass or other sharp object pierces a tire, it can’t be patched for long-term use. Researchers are beginning to develop self-healing rubber in the laboratory, but these prototypes might not be stable over time either. Amit Das and colleagues wanted to address that shortcoming.