Material that disappears on command created by American scientists

New research interested in a new self-destructive polymer was presented at the conferences of the American Chemical Society (ACS) autumn 2019.

It is a material that is gaining in importance, especially in the military sphere: with this new material, for example, you could build drones (very simplified, at least considerably gliders) that could disappear after you have carried out your own mission.

However, the same material can also be used in the construction sector or in that of environmental sensors. Paul Kohl himself, a researcher at the head of the team that developed the material, indicates that this is not a trivial biodegradable material, it is one of those, even of a plastic nature, that disappears after months or years.

Here we are faced with a polymer that “disappears as soon as a button is pressed,” as specified in the press release. This retractable polymer in fact has a certain mechanism within the same structure that dissolves self-solution. The same mechanism can be activated remotely or by sunlight, because the monomers that make up the same polymer begin to disintegrate above a certain temperature.

To achieve this goal, the researchers inserted a light-sensitive additive compound into the polymer structure itself, which absorbs light and initiates depolymerization. The same polymer can decompose based on different wavelengths of light: “We have designed polymers for applications where you enter the room, turn on the light and the thing disappears,” says Kohl, pointing out the versatility of the material in terms of self-destruction.

The period during which the polymer remains stable after exposure to light can also be variable: “We have a way of slowing down depolymerisation for a certain period of time: one hour, two hours, three hours,” explains the same scientist.

Obviously, the US Department of Defense is first interested in this material and wants to build delivery planes that leave no trace as they approach the target. It is a material that the same scientists have been trying to produce for decades and that now seems to have become reality according to what Kohl himself stated, head of a research group at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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Kelly Owen

Kelly majored in English Literature and is responsible for assisting in proofreading, editing and research, as well as for web design and the maintenance of this website. Beyond her outstanding writing skills, she has like the rest of us a passion for science and science reporting. She is an avid reader of many scientific journals and magazines, especially Scientific American. In her spare time she also enjoys reading fiction and hopes to complete her own novel in 2020.
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Kelly Owen