Self-Healing Plastic: Team Develops Material That Mimics Blood Clotting

Monday, 12 May 2014 12:53 PM

By Michael Mullins

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A self-healing plastic that mimics blood clotting and can patch a hole more than 100 times larger than any previously engineered plastic was developed recently by researchers at the University of Illinois.

The polymer is able to patch holes of up to 3 centimeters in width by using a network of capillaries that deliver healing chemicals to damaged areas, the BBC reported.

The new regenerating plastic fills in large cracks and holes by regrowing the material itself, according to University of Illinois News Bureau, which points out that, until now, self-repairing materials could only bond tiny microscopic cracks.

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"We have demonstrated repair of a nonliving, synthetic materials system in a way that is reminiscent of repair-by-regrowth as seen in some living systems," Illinois University chemistry professor Jeffry Moore, who took part in the research responsible for producing the self-healing plastic, told the News Bureau.

The development of the polymer reportedly stemmed from the team's prior work on creating vascular materials. In the case of the self-healing plastic, when the material is cracked, microscopic capsules containing a liquid healing plastic agent are applied to the area bridging the gap in the surface, the BBC noted.

"Vascular delivery lets us deliver a large volume of healing agents — which, in turn, enables restoration of large damage zones," researcher Nancy Sottos, a professor of materials science and engineering at Illinois University, told the News Bureau. "The vascular approach also enables multiple restorations if the material is damaged more than once."

"When damage is unpredictable and uncontrolled, more complex and interconnected vascular networks will be necessary to provide sufficient vascular coverage and redundancy to circumvent channel blockage," added research team leader and professor Scott White in the journal Science.

According to the researchers behind the new regenerating plastic, the material regrown retained 62 percent of its original strength and was able to regrow regions of up to 35mm in just 20 minutes time with "restored mechanical function within three hours."

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