Next-generation self-healing materials

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Science  12 Oct 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6411, pp. 150-151
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau6453

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The long-term persistence of many synthetic materials and the resulting impact on the environment has made clear the importance of developing new routes to creating sustainable materials (1). This is especially true for man-made polymers, for which slow (or lack of ) degradation is widely problematic, from plastic wastes generated by commodity packaging to high-tech electronics. Despite threats to human health, wildlife, oceans, and landfills, the fraction of polymeric materials that are recycled remains low. Polymers designed to degrade after their intended use represent a promising, chemistry-driven approach to minimize the impact of persistent, petroleum-derived materials (2). An alternative strategy for preparing sustainable materials is to design polymers that have even longer life spans and, as a result, need to be replaced less frequently. On page 220 of this issue, Urban et al. (3) advance the latter strategy through an approach to “self-healing” polymeric materials that stands out for its simplicity and potential scalability.