Team creates self-healing polymers

Researchers at Warwick University have created self-healing polymers that could extend the lifetime of automotive oils.

The polymers are suitable for adding to lubricants and could maintain the physical properties of engine oils for longer, helping engine efficiency.

Polymers are often added to automotive oils to control important physical properties such as viscosity, but mechanical and thermal stress can break the polymers, decreasing their efficiency and how they affect the properties of the oils.

The research team, led by Prof David Haddleton from Warwick University, has now designed a self-healing, star-shaped polymer for use as a viscosity modifier.

The methacrylate polymer has long arms that can be broken off if stressed, reducing performance. However, the research team found that it could add a particular chemical combination to the polymer’s backbone, which, almost like a starfish, will allow the broken arms to reform in a self-healing reaction.

The team now plans to optimise the chemistry before passing the technology onto industrial collaborator Lubrizol for development in automotive lubricant applications, according to Haddleton.