Tire, heal thyself

Flat Tire

Imagine a world without flat tires – a place where a punctured tire could “heal” itself while your car is parked. Researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Polymer Research in Dresden, Germany are hoping to make this flat-free fantasy a reality.

Currently, all rubber used in automobile tires undergoes a process called vulcanization. Vulcanization makes rubber durable while keeping it elastic, by curing it with sulfur or another ingredient. However, the vulcanization process also makes it impossible to patch a tire once it’s been cut or punctured.

The Leibniz researchers were able to modify conventional tire rubber (called bromobutyl rubber) into a highly elastic, self-healing material using carbon and nitrogen additives instead of vulcanization. In their experiments, cut rubber healed itself at room temperature; applying heat made the rubber heal even faster. After eight days, the healed rubber was as strong or stronger than it had been before being cut – strong enough to withstand pressures of more than 750 psi, many times the normal amount of pressure for a car tire.

Other researchers have developed self-healing rubber, but there has always been a tradeoff in terms of the stability or durability of the healed rubber.

Self-healing tires probably won’t be available on TireBuyer anytime soon. But this glimpse into the future of tire technology gets us excited for the day when a tire punctured in the afternoon might heal overnight in the garage – and be good as new by the morning commute!

 

 

Photo by Tobin

 

Sources:

http://phys.org/news/2015-09-toward-tires-that-repair-themselves.html

http://www.techtimes.com/articles/88431/20150925/researchers-develop-self-healing-rubber-that-may-spell-the-end-for-flat-tires.htm

http://www.autoevolution.com/news/self-healing-rubber-could-spell-the-end-of-punctured-tires-video-100361.html

http://www.wsj.com/articles/rubber-that-can-heal-its-own-wounds-1443806241

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