This article on the Nature News website describes an astounding new material which is able to heal holes of up to 1 cm in itself.
The polymeric material is made up of two different liquids which mix together to form a hard plastic. The team of researchers, from the University of Illinois, drew inspiration from the human body’s network of veins and arteries to create channels in plastic which could contain one of the liquids. When the plastic was damaged, these channels were cracked, and the liquids were able to mix and solidify, ‘healing’ the damage.
So far, the material takes 20 minutes to heal the space, and 3 hours to harden, but the team are working on improving their process so that the healing occurs at a faster rate.
This work really is a great combination of chemistry and mechanical engineering and, once optimised, could find its place in a huge range of applications. It’s early days for these materials, but this result is a great step forward.