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Abstract

Self-healing or healable polymers can recuperate their function after physical damage. This process involves diffusion of macromolecules across severed interfaces until the structure of the interphase matches that of the pristine material. However, monitoring this nanoscale process and relating it to the mechanical recovery remain elusive. We report that studying diffusion across healed interfaces and a correlation of contact time, diffusion depth, and mechanical properties is possible when two metallosupramolecular polymers assembled with different lanthanoid salts are mended. The materials used display similar properties, while the metal ions can be tracked with high spatial resolution by energy-dispersive x-ray spectrum imaging. We find that healing actual defects requires an interphase thickness in excess of 100 nm, 10 times more than previously established for self-adhesion of smooth films of glassy polymers.

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