Self-healing material can be damaged several times and will keep on fixing itself
Scientists have managed to create a resilient polymer that can heal itself multiple times, like a human's skin.
The polymer can be used in cars and aeroplanes to automatically seal over cuts and scrapes as they are attained. Imagine never having to touch up a scratch on a car ever again as it remains showroom perfect for years.
The LG G Flex smartphone has a self-healing back for basic scratches – this new version is more complex for repeated healing on a larger scale.
The boffins at the University of Illinois found that a 3D vascular network – a bit like veins – placed in a fibre-reinforced composite material was the best way to heal. The micro-channels are filled with an epoxy resin and a hardener, when mixed they solidify to fix the damaged area. The researchers say this means it is able to repair itself multiple times.
By creating the micro-channels in a herringbone arrangement it was found the mixing was more easily achieved than making them in parallel.
"The beauty of this self-healing approach is, we don't have to probe the structure and say, this is where the damage occurred and then repair it ourselves," said Jason Patrick, a Ph.D. candidate in civil engineering. "When a fracture occurs, this ruptures the separate networks of healing agents, automatically releasing them into the crack plane – akin to a bleeding cut. As they come into contact with one another in situ, or within the material, they polymerise to essentially form structural glue in the damage zone. We tested this over multiple cycles and all cracks healed successfully at nearly 100 per cent efficiency."
It sounds like we may not have to wait long for self-healing cars and more efficient self-healing gadgets.