Self-Healing Plastic Could End Cracked Phone Horror

Many of us know all too well the frustration that comes of buying a shiny new gadget, only to see it smashed into a thousand pieces soon after. But a new family of plastics offer insurance against these disasters, through unique properties that allow them to be reformed after being broken apart. Just add heat and a chemical catalyst, and watch the damage melt away. Vitrimers are the brainchild of Ludwik Liebler, a materials scientist at the ESCPI Institute in Paris, the school made famous by Marie Curie's discovery of radioactivity. Vitrimers combine the two existing families of plastics. Thermoplastics are malleable when heated but become fixed in a solid shape when cooled, and cannot be reformed. Thermosets are rigid and retain their form even when heated. Vitrimers retain their form when heated, but can be reconstituted infinite times.