Superior Toughness and Fast Self-Healing at Room Temperature Engineered by Transparent Elastomers

The most important properties of self-healing polymers are efficient recovery at room temperature and prolonged durability. However, these two characteristics are contradictory, making it difficult to optimize them simultaneously. Herein, a transparent and easily processable thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) with the highest reported tensile strength and toughness (6.8 MPa and 26.9 MJ m−3, respectively) is prepared. This TPU is superior to reported contemporary room-temperature self-healable materials and conveniently heals within 2 h through facile aromatic disulfide metathesis engineered by hard segment embedded aromatic disulfides. After the TPU film is cut in half and respliced, the mechanical properties recover to more than 75% of those of the virgin sample within 2 h. Hard segments with an asymmetric alicyclic structure are more effective than those with symmetric alicyclic, linear aliphatic, and aromatic structures. An asymmetric structure provides the optimal metathesis efficiency for the embedded aromatic disulfide while preserving the remarkable mechanical properties of TPU, as indicated by rheological and surface investigations. The demonstration of a scratch-detecting electrical sensor coated on a tough TPU film capable of auto-repair at room temperature suggests that this film has potential applications in the wearable electronics industry.

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