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Rubber recycling breakthrough creates adhesive ‘stronger than glue’

Flinders University Associate Professor Justin Chalker conducting lab tests.

Have you ever heard of a self-repairing rubber, or super-adhesive made entirely from waste materials? ‘It probably sounds like science fiction,’ Australia’s Flinders University suggests, but it doesn’t seem to be the case.

Researchers have discovered a new kind of rubber and catalyst that can be used to make flexible and repairable products such as car tyres. The sustainable rubber material is made from cheap and plentiful industrial waste products such as sulphur, canola cooking oil and dicyclopentadiene (DCPD) from petroleum refining.

An amine catalyst is used to trigger a reaction that causes rubber to self-repair at room temperature ‘within minutes in some cases’, says Flinders University Associate Professor Justin Chalker. The rubber can be easily recycled, which he laments is not always the case with similar products.

‘The rubber bonds to itself when the amine catalyst is applied to the surface. The adhesion is stronger than many commercial glues,’ says Dr Tom Hasell, an R&D project partner at the University of Liverpool, even though the rubber is not sticky until the catalyst is applied. ‘The polymer is also resistant to water and corrosion,’ he adds.

Rubber bricks made from the polymer can be joined chemically by applying the catalyst. The rubber can also be used as a latent adhesive.

The team’s findings have been published in the journal Chemical Science.

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