Broken glass cannot return to its original form.
For the first time in the world, a Japanese university research team overturned this common knowledge with their development and research of this magical glass.
The research made it into the US journal Science in December 2017.
A team led by Professor Takuzo Aida of the University of Tokyo has fabricated glass from a new translucent material, polyether thiourea (TUEG3: poly[thioureas] and ethylene glycol). It can return to its original state by simply pressing the cross-section together, even if broken. This feature can be reproduced many times at room temperature, regaining the same strength as before breaking.
This self-healing glass is made of polymer chains called ‘polyether thioureas’. Polymer chains are large molecular shapes consisting of numerous atoms connected in chains.
By nature, polymeric materials are hard and non-easily repairable. But polyether thiourea has a structure that allows cracked surfaces to be easily reattached by simply pressing them against each other.
Once broken, existing glass materials cannot be reused unless you heat or melt them. This has led to the choice of discarding the material due to the energy costs involved.
With this self-healing glass, such energy losses can disappear. Thus, encouraging the reuse of the material, showing its potential to be a material that contributes to a sustainable society.
So far, there have been glass materials with properties restorable by heating, but all of these are soft materials. The fact that hard materials can be repaired at room temperature indicates a vast range of possible usage scenarios.
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