Every driver and every parent of a young driver has worried about this very thing. The dark road on a rainy night and, suddenly, a flat tire. Cell service is spotty or non-existent, so you’re in for a half hour of wet and dirty work, at best. What if the spare is flat…or not even there? Why haven’t they invented self-healing tires?
A couple of Harvard scientists have answered the call. The generation of car buyers yet to be born may never have to change a tire. Gildshire found this idea an intriguing one and went out after more information, and The Drive told us more.
John Paulson works at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard. The self-healing rubber that SEAS is working on incorporates science from self-healing, water-based hydrogels. In self-healing hydrogels, the net-like molecular structure spontaneously forms new bonds. It’s not much different than the way flesh heals when wounded.
Currently, self-healing hydrogels are medical magic. They’re great for tissue engineering and, subsequently, regeneration. SEAS figured out that tough materials like rubber could heal themselves when punctured. Unfortunately, the two types of bonds normally don’t play well together. So the brilliant Harvard researchers came up with a molecular rope called “randomly branched polymers” which holds the two types of bonds together.
“All well and good,” you may say, “But what does this mean for tires?”Simply that, even should you have a cut through the tire, it wouldn’t have to be replaced right away. Instead, it would self-heal while driving. You would gain the leeway to avoid dramatic damage.
In layman’s terms, we’ll be able to make tires out of this magic elixir. They would heal themselves from cracking and puncturing. Not only would this be good in emergency situations, but we will get a lot more life out of self-healing tires. If they can patch up their own cracks, they should theoretically be able to eat up more miles.
This is good news, particularly for nervous parents. Young drivers are bulletproof and nothing bad can happen to them when they grab the car keys. We know that’s how they think because it is how we thought. However, we also remember that one night just outside Waldo, Ohio…