New Form of Plastic Gets Stronger Under Stress
Like all plastics, this one has a backbone composed mostly of carbon. However, the carbon atoms are arranged in a series of triangles extending down in long chains with two bromine atoms at one point. The researchers found that the unique structure of this compound could turn “destructive” energy into “constructive” energy. But how?
When the polymer chains are tugged or experience shock, they tear on one side. Other plastic polymers would not be so uniformly damaged, leading to structural failure. However, this is only the beginning of the transformation. The shearing force breaks the triangle into a longer chain, which also frees up bonding sites at the bromine locations for a second molecule to come in.
The researchers included a molecule called a carboxylate in this plastic to utilize those bonding sites. This cross-links multiple chains and increases the material’s strength at the site of damage. Because this material reacts to mechanical force instead of light, heat, or chemical exposure, it is called a mechanophore.
(via New plastic becomes stronger when stressed, drop-proof smartphones incoming | ExtremeTech)