Because of the problems in real life with existing products, Recticel has a profound interest in applying this type of new technology. This would enable the company to produce more performing products for areas where replacement is difficult but would also allow to produce PU materials for new markets where they are not active in yet. Because of the lack of expertise and knowledge on the field of fundamental healing characteristics and encapsulation, partners were looked for to co-operate in this project. Already for many years a close working relationship exists between the PCR laboratory of the UGent and Recticel's IDC.
Several projects were conducted together in the area of optimized polymer chemistries for polyurethane. On encapsulation, only one company is present in Flanders with the necessary know-how, namely Devan. Although no joint projects were conducted in the past, Devan has been a supplier to Recticel for years. There are a number of difficulties that need to be addressed within the framework of this project. First, a suitable self-healing concept with regard to the type of chemistry needed for repair will need to be developed that is applicable to thermo-sets like polyurethane, epoxies and polyesters.
A second challenge is the encapsulation of the chemicals in a carrier, e.g. a capsule. However, interactions might occur between the capsule and the filling material that needs to function as the healing agent. Therefore it will be necessary to adopt the capsule to the needs of the encapsulant. Different types of capsules might be needed for different triggering mechanisms so development will be necessary. Finally, it is unclear what the influence of adding these particles to the PU matrix will be. It is known that regular inorganic fillers have a big influence on processing and properties but the extra dimension with these capsules is that they are filled with a (reactiive) liquid and might be effected by the processing conditions.