The Erum group is keeping a close eye on the progress being made in a research project to develop self-repairing plastic components using elastic polymers that automatically halt the growth of micro-cracks that can appear in these materials, and which can sometimes lead to unexpected breakage.
Although the plastic components currently used in the industry are very tough, they can still break when subjected to significant mechanical strain. Microcracks can appear in any part of a component and are so tiny that it is impossible spot them during daily use.
The new process consists of loading microcapsules with a special component (polyisobutylene (PIB)) in the elastomers, thus stimulating the plastic to repair itself. When the capsules detect a certain pressure, they open and release PIB, which mixes with the polymer chains, sealing the cracks. Results have been successful in some tests, but the self-repairing effect still needs optimisation.
Once the research is complete, possible uses in logistics hangers will be analysed, because these are subjected to different loads during storage and transport processes. This will enable the Erum group to contribute added value to its clients’ hangers.