Self-healing skin-like materials



The bleeding edge of self-healing skin-like materials – BBC post about research being done by U of Illinois engineer Nancy Sottos on self-healing polymers.

Inspired by human skin, Sottos creates plastics that “bleed” when cut and can heal themselves over and over again. Her work is paving the way for new materials that can respond and react to all sorts of environmental stresses. At a mundane level, this could cut down on costly maintenance and inspections, but perhaps more importantly it could also help prevent catastrophic – and potentially deadly  failures.  …

To create a batch of self-healing plastic, for instance, Sottos begins by constructing a thick polymer sheet that has a dense, three-dimensional web of hollow, internal channels hidden beneath the surface. Then she fills some of these channels with a liquid resin and others with a liquid “curing agent.”  …

She’s also shown that microvascular networks can be used for more than just healing. In a paper published in 2011, Sottos demonstrated that engineers could reduce a material’s temperature by circulating water through tiny, sub-surface channels. The concept could eventually be used to design computer chips and other electronics—which are susceptible to overheating—that can regulate their own temperatures.

See more on the U of IL Autonomous Materials Systems page; image source.

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