New Material Heals Itself|
By Bill Christensen
Posted: 18 June 2007 12:06 pm ET
Everywhere you look, exposed surfaces are cracking. Asphalt streets are
cracked, building facades are cracked, the paint on your house is cracked and
flaking - the list is endless.
Left: Cross section of the self-healing surface showing that cracks,
propagate towards the microchannel openings at the interface. Right:
Optical image of the self-healing structure after cracks are formed
in the coating, revealing the presence of excess healing fluid on the
coating surface. Credit: Nature
What if you could have a surface that repaired itself?
After all, you have a surface that heals itself - your skin. When you get a
cut or a scratch, living cells deep in the living layers of your skin replace
the old ones on the surface.
A team of researchers at the University of Illinois have used a technique
create a polymer-based system that heals itself. An epoxy-resin base is infused
with a network of interconnected channels about 200 microns in diameter. The
channels are filled with low viscosity healing agent - just like your blood
vessels carry healing material to cuts in your skin. This "vascularized"
substrate has a solid epoxy layer deposited on top of it. A catalyst is
incorporated in this solid coating.
When the coating layer is damaged, healing agent wicks from the channels
through capillary action.
"Once in the crack plane the healing agent interacts with the catalyst
particles in the coating to initiate polymerisation, rebonding the crack faces
autonomically. After a sufficient time period the cracks are healed and the
structural integrity of the coating restored. As cracks reopen under subsequent
loading the healing cycle is repeated."
The idea of a "self-healing" surface is part of a larger set of ideas called
"autonomous materials systems." The intent is to develop materials that can
respond to their environment without additional attention from human beings.
This idea has wide application not only here on Earth, but in space as well.
This week, a torn heat-resistant
blanket must be repaired on the space shuttle Atlantis before it can return
from orbit. The tiles on the shuttles also require inspection. What if it was
possible for shuttles to have "skin" that repaired itself when cracked or
Researchers are busy creating futuristic materials; see also
Desert Beetle-Based Moisture Collectors
MIT researchers, inspired by
the beetle, have created a material that can capture and control tiny amounts
See the shape-shifting polymers do their thing in the video.
Adhesion: The Sticky Feet Of Spiders
Scientists from Germany and
Switzerland used a scanning electron microscope to find out how they do it -
and how humans might make sticky things stickier.
See also this story on an attempt to create an earthquake-proof Nanotech
Self-Healing House in Greece. Read more about the self-healing
Original article: Live Science
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