Monday, May 18, 2015

Summer Science Exhibition of Self Healing Polymers Of Case Western and Oxford University Smack of 'Pipe Dreams'

Can a structural, material really self-repair? And can molecules, or polymers, really snap into action" to fill holes and restructure a panel? The exhibitors of "Self-Mending Polymers" at the Royal Society apparently believe so:

"New plastics could enable car and aircraft components to fix themselves when broken.
Biological materials, such as bone and skin, can regenerate after damage. But until recently such self-repair was almost unknown in man-made materials. Our exhibit shows how materials, called polymers, can be designed to contain complementary molecular surfaces that will reconnect to repair damage. Self-healing polymers could vastly improve the durability and safety of critical components in cars and aircraft."

This physics I see here, is remarkably similar to the self-replicating polymers that are claimed in other peer reviewed articles, at least one of which I reference in my new paper. Self-replicating polymers, are a close cousin techno-kin to these self healing auto-body materials and also "self healing concrete".

It is not that I oppose technological progress in any sense, but one can hardly call progress in the unachievable "progress." And I define unachievable as a theory or mechanism of action, which apparently violates physical laws, namely, the Second Law of Thermodynamics. But we are speaking of inanimate polymers, not living ones, and in the case I examine, of "virtual closed systems" there is no allowed artificial addition of useful energy from the outside, it is assuming a natural system. So how do such polymers deal with weathering and cracking? The same as any other substance, we'd expect, and such changes are irreversible.

What immediately set off my radar however, was the sentence "Our exhibit shows how materials, called polymers..." Really? It truly gives the impression that they believe they've invented "polymers", and is a poor choice of words, if not concept, smacking of over-hype.

The whole point of a structure is that it has achieved a lower form of energy, of stability, such that it takes input of heat, and work, to unravel that structure. This is why it's much harder to cut steel than to cut through plastic. Hardness is related to the bond energies, and to internal structure. But that's not precisely what's relevant here. We're talking about after the fact restructuring, self healing materials. Where does the energy come from? Unless this is some form of "green slime" which really does no work, it simply flows passively into a hole, (which btw is not strictly true as the air pressure is in fact doing work to close it), you're not going to have both structure and hole repair built into one, they oppose each other. It's not physically possible, unless of course their material has an unreacted or uncured component, which then ADD additional energy. But that's not a polymer. That's a device of some kind.
But my new theory which I am letting people take a peek at here, does in fact relate to self-replication systems and similar problems, via a new theory "Virtual Closed Systems".
At a theoretical level, this is a virtual closed system, and we can evaluate it in a similar way to the other examples I discuss here. They draw parallels to their polymers with natural repair, such as bone and others. However, we do not find in nature, for example, inorganic materials, inanimate materials that repair themselves after damage. And I address a new physical theory for why that result is more likely observed, if not exclusively observed.

Polymers and molecules essentially "do as they like", and they should not be able in principal to violate the second law of thermodynamics any more than any other polymer or molecule. So my paper appears to have some growing applications, but might be useful to actually addressing this problem.

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