Scientists in Germany recently came up with a way to manufacture rubber that grows back together (or “heals”) after being cut or pierced. The new material can change things pretty drastically for several industries, most notably the automotive industry, if it catches on with tire manufacturers.
If you’re planning to pursue an automotive career, read on to learn more about how tires are made today, and find out how self-healing rubber could be a potential industry game-changer!
A Brief History of Goodyear, Vulcanized Rubber and Car Tires
Students enrolled in auto technology courses have likely heard of Goodyear—the prominent American tire manufacturer. The company’s namesake, Charles Goodyear, is the man responsible for the way that car tires are manufactured today.
Mr. Goodyear was a chemist and manufacturing engineer who developed vulcanized rubber, for which he received a patent in 1844. He came across the vulcanization process by accident after searching for a way to create more stable rubber for over five years.
Vulcanization is basically a way of making natural rubber, or polymers, much more durable. By adding sulphur into the compound mix for rubber, it strengthens the fibers that hold it together and makes the material much less sticky as well as tougher and elastic..
The discovery of vulcanized rubber revolutionized how rubber has been used in the industrial world. It can be shaped into many precise shapes and dimensions and can handle hot or cold temperatures without becoming brittle. Today, a wide range of products are made using vulcanized rubber, including shoe soles, hoses, conveyor belts and of course, car tires.
The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company was founded and named after Charles Goodyear in 1898, almost four decades after his death.
Self-Healing Rubber: Auto Technology that Could Change the Tire Game
The main issue with vulcanized rubber is that when it’s punctured, it can’t be patched for long-term use. Anyone who’s used store-bought tire patching kits knows that they provide a short-term fix that gives the driver enough time to get their car to the nearest service station for a tire change.
Scientists have been motivated to create self-healing materials for years, and as a result, they have produced self-healing metals, protective films, concrete, and now: rubber. Self-healing rubber is made using bromine atoms. And, when a cut or puncture occurs, the rubber is able to rebuild or “heal” itself through chemical ionic bonds.
Check out this video to see how the technology works:
Currently, no one is certain as to how much a set of 4 self-healing tires would cost consumers, but it is clear that this new technology has the potential to radically change the automotive industry.
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