A new stretchy material can be cut and rejoined at the same spot just by pressing the broken ends together for a few minutes. The self-healing rubber stays stretchy even after being severed five or six times or cut and left alone overnight, French researchers say. A chemical manufacturer is already working to create batches of the material for hypothetical applications, such as sealants. The material's secret is a molecular structure that resembles a plate of spaghetti, says physicist Ludwik Leibler of the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris, who led the research team. The self-mending occurs because each strand consists of molecules of vegetable fat linked to one another via relatively weak hydrogen bonds, the same chemical bonds that give water molecules their cohesiveness. The result is a rubber that can stretch to six times its resting length, the group extends in the February 21 Nature.
This article was originally published with the title "Self-Healing Rubber" in Scientific American 298, 5, 36 (May 2008)