A newly developed so-called “hyper glue” bonds plastics and synthetic fibers via molecular cross linking, creating impact- and corrosion-resistant bonds that reportedly are unachievable using current commercially available adhesives. The technology has broad applications in everything from medical implants and protective clothing to plumbing, according to researchers at the Okanagan campus of the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the University of Victoria (UVic) in Canada.
Cross-linking is activated in the materials when the adhesive is exposed to heat or long-wave UV light, explained the team of chemists and composite materials researchers who worked on this project. Even with a minimal amount of cross-linking, the materials are tightly bonded, they added.
|Left to right: Researchers Kevin Golovin, Abbas Milani, Feng Jiang and Jeremy Wulff. Image courtesy University of British Columbia Okanagan.|
“It turns out the adhesive is particularly effective in high-density polyethylene, which is an important plastic used in bottles, piping, geomembranes, plastic lumber and many other applications,” said professor Abbas Milani, Director of UBC’s Materials and Manufacturing Research Institute, and lead researcher at the Okanagan node of the Composite Research Network. “In fact, commercially available glues didn’t work at all on these materials, making our discovery an impressive foundation for a wide range of important uses.”
UVic organic chemistry professor Jeremy Wulff, whose team led the design of the new class of cross-linking materials, collaborated with UBC Survive and Thrive Applied Research (STAR) to explore how it performed in real-world applications. “The UBC STAR team was able put the material through its paces and test its viability in some incredible applications, including ballistic protection for first responders,” said Wulff.
The discovery is already playing an important role in research conducted at those institutions in collaboration with the University of Alberta into high-performance body armor. “By using this cross-linking technology, we’re better able to strongly fuse together different layers of fabric types to create the next generation of clothing for extreme environments,” said Wulff. “At the same time, the cross-linker provides additional material strength to the fabric itself.”
That is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of potential uses for this adhesive technology, according to Milani. “Imagine paints that never peel or waterproof coatings that never need to be resealed,” he said. “We’re even starting to think about using it as a way to bond lots of different plastic types together, which is a major challenge in the recycling of plastics and composites. There is real potential to make some of our everyday items stronger and less prone to failure, which is what many chemists and composite materials engineers strive for,” added Milani.
The research was published recently in the journal Science and was co-sponsored by Victoria-based company Epic Ventures and non-profit research organization Mitacs.