This High-Tech Rubber Can Heal Itself

Shaunacy Ferro
iStock / iStock

Flat tires could soon be a thing of the past, thanks to a group of scientists at the Leibniz Institute for Polymer Research in Germany. The experts have invented a method to create rubber that heals itself, hinting at a future where all tires are impervious to that nail in the road—or can at least fix themselves while you wait. 

Modern tire manufacturers use a process called vulcanization to make rubber durable but still stretchy, ensuring that your tire doesn’t suddenly snap like a piece of stretched-out gum. By applying a carbon and nitrogen additive to commercial rubber, the Dresden-based chemists have created a way to avoid the need for vulcanization so that the rubber can reform bonds when they break.

In the journal Applied Material and Interfaces, the researchers report that their new technique allowed rubber to heal at room temperature. In fact, the process even sped up at higher temperatures. So your punctured car tire might be able to fix itself while sitting on the side of the road, and it would work even faster in hot weather. Some day, we might all be able to get by without knowing how to change a tire.