Researchers at the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia have joined forces to create a new cross-linking agent that acts like a hyper glue and makes materials stronger.

“What we did is we developed a universal cross-linker for polymer chemistry,” said Jeremy Wulff, professor of organic chemistry at UVic.

Wulff and his team were able to figure out a way to bond plastics and synthetic fibres at the molecular level, making them stronger and resistant to impact and corrosion.

“By adding just the right amount of chemical cross-linking, you make that already strong material even stronger, make an already stiff material even stiffer and you make a material that’s already relatively inert, even more inert,” he explained.

This research was prompted by Vancouver Island-based Aluula Composites, a company that makes fibres for items like kites for kitesurfing.

“Things are sailing, you’re trying to make things that are flying,” said Richard Myerscough, CEO of the company. “So… if you can make it lighter, stronger, it’s just fantastic.”

Myerscough explained that’s why they reached out to the university to try to make it happen.

With this new cross-linking procedure, that’s now a possibility. It’s also led to another important discovery: A hyper glue that can join materials that weren’t able to stick together before.

“On superglue itself, it says this cannot be used for plastics,” explained Chakravarthi Simhadri, a postdoctoral research fellow at UVic. With this method, you can glue together plastics, Simhadri added, noting that it’s something that hadn’t been done before.

This cross-linking procedure can be used in biomedical implants, ballistics and making materials like backpacks and tents stronger and lighter. The inventors say the possibilities are endless.

Jasmine Bala