Living creatures have the ability to grow and repair damaged cells and tissue. But man-made materials lack this characteristic, or they have up till now.
A special type of plastic, which can ‘grow’ new material and repair itself much like a living animal or plant, has been developed by researchers at the University of Illinois. To give it this unique ability, researchers gave their plastic animal-like qualities.They copied the way animals heal puncture wounds by sending a clot at the fresh break. They incoporated embedded capillary passages in their plastic to transport repair materials to the site of the damage.
Usually, when a large whole is filled with liquid, the liquid drops to the ground due to gravity. To overcome this obstacle, a special two-component plastic was developed. This plastic can gel almost immediately, then build up slowly until the damage is repaired.
The practical applications of this revolutionary plastic are endless. From self-healing car bumpers to structures that are difficult to actively repair, like underground pipes and spacecraft, this technology has a lot of potential. The research team even envisions a future where any plastic can constantly repair itself over its lifetime, extending its life by reducing the natural breakdown that conventional plastics suffer from due to age.
Check out this video of the self-healing plastic in action.