Healing by the Joule effect of electrically conductive poly(ester-urethane)/carbon nanotube nanocomposites†
Recent demands for polymers with autonomous self-healing properties are being constantly raised due to the need for high-performance and reliable materials. So far, the advances in this field are limited to the production of self-healing materials requiring a high energy input. Therefore there is an urgent need to develop self-healing polymer systems, in which healing can be easily and specifically induced by external stimuli for economical and viable applications. In the current work we demonstrate, for the first time to our knowledge, the possibility to heal local macroscopic damage by a confined temperature increase arising from the Joule effect. The damage healing is promoted by the resistance to an electrical current at the crack tip. This new concept is studied on thermo-reversible and electrically conductive poly(ester-urethane)/carbon nanotube nanocomposites derived from thermo-reversible Diels–Alder reactions between furfuryl- and maleimide-functionalized poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL)-based precursors. Electrically conductive materials are then obtained after incorporating multi-walled carbon nanotubes into the thermo-reversible networks using reactive extrusion. Under mild electrical conditions, temperature in the range of the retro-Diels–Alder reaction can be obtained near the damaged site. The obtained results reveal the potential of this new approach for healing materials locally while maintaining the overall material properties.