An electrically activated self-healing, transparent, highly stretchable conductive material was developed by scientists to power artificial muscles and to improve batteries in devices. This low-cost easy product is a soft rubber like material but can stretch up to 50 times its normal length.
After being cut or torn, this material can heal or re-attach in 24 hours in a room temperature and its efficiency is considered to be so high that after just 5 minutes of healing it can be stretched up to twice its original length. It is said that this is the first time scientists have created an ionic conductor that is materials through which ions can flow through and having properties like transparency, stretchable and self-healing. “Creating a material with all these properties has been a puzzle for years. We did that and now are just beginning to explore the applications”, said Chao Wang, assistant professor at University of California. Wang was inspired by the comic book character from Marvel Comics known as Wolverine who has self-healing capabilities at a very high rate. Conventionally, self-healing polymers make use of non-covalent bonds, which creates a problem because those bonds are affected by electrochemical reactions that degrade the performance of the materials. The scientists solved this problem using a mechanism known as the ion-dipole interactions, which are forces between charged ions and polar molecules that are highly stable under electrochemical conditions. Wang combined a polar, stretchable polymer with a mobile, high ionic strength salt to create the material and researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder in the US demonstrated that the material could be used to power artificial muscle, also called dielectric elastomer actuator. The research was published in the journal Advanced Material.
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