Today’s Solutions: March 01, 2024

Needless to say, getting a flat tire is a huge pain in the neck. And we can’t even fix the problem. All we can do is temporarily patch the rupture and then throw the non-recyclable tire away. But imagine a scenario where you get one, but instead of swapping it out for a new one, you just smear on a chemical that makes the rubber seamlessly back together.

That’s the kind of breakthrough researchers at Australia’s Flinders University are now reporting, and better yet, the material is made of waste products and can be easily recycled itself.

Made out of a rather unusual mix of ingredients, including sulfur, canola cooking oil, and a chemical compound called dicyclopentadiene (DCPD), the unusual concoction makes for a versatile and sustainable new form of rubber.

But the weirdest part is that this material is a “latent adhesive” – basically, glue waiting for its cue. The missing ingredient is an amine catalyst, and once that’s applied the rubber becomes sticky again, allowing it to bond with itself so completely that it doesn’t lose any strength.

The team says that the bonding can be done at room temperature and takes just minutes. That could make it useful for repairing rubber objects like tires on the fly, and when their useful life is over, it makes them much easier to recycle.

And as an added bonus, the three main ingredients used to make the stuff in the first place are all industrial waste products, meaning that manufacturing the material is both cheap and environmentally friendly.

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