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No more flat tires: Scientists make rubber that can heal itself

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Bengaluru: A team of scientists from Germany and Finland has developed a new type of rubber that can heal itself after a puncture– a discovery that means one may not have to call a mechanic after a flat tire. The development of this new material has been reported by Amit Das the lead author and his colleagues in the latest issue of ‘Applied Materials and Interfaces’, a journal of the American Chemical Society.

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Rubber is made of long strands of molecules. When the tire is punctured, these strands break. Traditionally, manufacturers add sulphur to ensure that rubber is durable and elastic  a process known a vulcanisation. But once the tire is pierced by a piece of glass or any sharp object, it can’t be patched for long-term use. Now, for the first time, scientists have made a tire-grade rubber using a new simple process that avoids vulcanization altogether.

“Here, we describe a simple approach to converting commercially available and widely used rubber into a highly elastic material with extraordinary self-healing properties without using conventional cross linking or vulcanising agents,” Das and colleagues reported. Testing by different mechanical analysis and scanning electron microscopy showed that a cut in the material healed at room temperature, a property that could allow a tire to mend itself while parked. They also found that the process did not diminish the rubber’s durability. The researchers say their product could be further strengthened by adding conventional fillers agents such as silica or carbon black.

Das and his colleagues say their research was motivated by the pioneering work of French scientists led by Ludwik Leibler who in 2008 created a self-healing rubber-like material that could stretch to several times its normal length when pulled. However these prototypes were not stable over time, necessitating newer approach. The new research published by Das and colleagues in the ACS journal outlines how the addition of carbon and nitrogen help broken chemical bonds in rubber reform of their own accord. “Modification of commercially available butyl rubber into a self-healing product by simple ionic transformation has not been reported before,” the scientists claim.

“Moreover, the cross-linked character of the modified rubber without using any conventional curatives is reported here for the first time .” According to the report, the ease of processing and absence of non-toxic vulcanizing chemicals to synthesize such novel self-healing rubbers “opens a new horizon in rubber technology and may significantly increase interest in both commercial application and academic research.”

With inputs from IANS

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Kerala’s plantation sector headed for turmoil

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Thiruvananthapuram: Mounting costs of producing tea, rubber, cardamom and coffee and the low prices the yield fetches is severely affecting the plantation sector in Kerala, an official of the planters’ organisation said on Wednesday.

B.K. Ajith, secretary of the Association of Planters Kerala (APK) – an umbrella organization of planters of tea, rubber, cardamom and coffee – said the plantation sector can go haywire in two months.

The group represents about 60 percent of the organised plantation sector in the state.

Kerala today accounts for 82 percent of the country’s rubber production, 71 percent of cardamom, six percent of the tea and 21 percent of the coffee.

The daily wages of more than three lakh plantation workers, who ended their three week-long strike early this month, were increased recently.

But Ajith hinted at other factors which lead to an increase in the production costs.

The production costs of cardamom stands at Rs.700 a kg, while the market price of a kilogram of cardamom is Rs.620, he said.

“Coffee planters in Kerala are going to be seriously affected as production in Brazil has reached much higher levels. There has been a currency devaluation as well. Thus, all cash crops in Kerala will be seriously affected,” added Ajith.

APK officials are also peeved that their long standing demands for reducing the plantation, agricultural and land taxes have fallen on deaf ears.

While Tamil Nadu levies no taxes in the plantation sector, Kerala charges Rs.700 a hectare as plantation tax. The agriculture income tax is 50 percent of the profits, while in other states it is 28 percent. The land tax here is Rs.500 a hectare, Ajith complained.

Similarly, the electricity tariff was increased for the plantation sector last year, he said.

“If something drastic does not happen, things will come to a halt very soon,” said Ajith.

(IANS)