Tyres to be made from self-healing rubber in future?

Punctured tyre

Items like nails, stones and kerbs are enemies of tyres and are the main culprits behind tyre damage. Although small punctures and cuts are fixed by mending them but there are multiple cases where the damage is so severe that it can not be fixed and often these tyres have to be dismounted and discarded.

Researchers from the Leibniz Institute of Polymer Research, Dresden and Dresden University of Technology in Germany and Tampere University of Technology, Finland have come across a technology to address the issue of irreversible tyre damage.

Their research article called ‘Iconic Modification Turns Commercial Rubber into a Self-Healing Material’, the people behind it, Amit Das, Aladdin Sallat, Frank Bohme, Marcus Suckow, Debdipta Basu, Sven Wiebner, Klaus Werner Stockelhuber, Brigitte Voit and Gert Heinrich documented the alternative to producing conventional tyre which typically involves sulphur vulcanisation to cross link the rubber compound.

According to the researchers, their method is quite simply to convert the commercially-available Bromobutyl Rubber (BIIR) into a “highly elastic material with extraordinary properties” without using vulcanisation process.

“The transformation of the bromine functionalities of BIIR into ionic imidazolium bromide groups results in the formation of reversible ionic associates that exhibit physical cross-linking ability,” explain the authors in the article’s abstract. “The reversibility of the ionic association facilitates the healing processes by temperature or stress-induced rearrangements, thereby enabling a fully-cut sample to retain its original properties after application of the self-healing process.”

The researchers pointed out that other properties such as elastic modules, tensile strength, ductility and hysteresis loss were”found to be superior” to the sulphur-vulcanised tyre rubber. Researchers believe that their “simple and easy” approach offers “unique development opportunities” in the area of highly-engineered products, like tyres, which are required to be safe and durable.

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