Self-Healing Plastic Fixes Even Big Holes

Self-healing materials have come a long way, but mostly for little cracks or fractures. This new material can heal holes three centimeters wide


(Timelapse healing of material)

The regenerative power of tissues and organs in biology has no analog in synthetic materials. Although self-healing of microscopic defects has been demonstrated, the regrowth of material lost through catastrophic damage requires a regenerative-like approach. We demonstrate a vascular synthetic system that restores mechanical performance in response to large-scale damage. Gap-filling scaffolds are created through a two-stage polymer chemistry that initially forms a shape-conforming dynamic gel but later polymerizes to a solid structural polymer with robust mechanical properties. Through the control of reaction kinetics and vascular delivery rate, we filled impacted regions that exceed 35 mm in diameter within 20 min and restored mechanical function within 3 hours. After restoration of impact damage, 62% of the total absorbed energy was recovered in comparison with that in initial impact tests.

One of the earliest references to the idea of a self-healing material that I can think of is the self-sealing plastic from Raymond Z. Gallun's 1951 novella Asteroid of Fear, which was intended to seal punctures in the windows of an asteroid garden.

However, readers might also like the plastex from J.G. Ballard's 1962 short story The Thousand Dreams of Stellavista:

It was a beautiful room all right, with opaque plastex walls and white fluo-glass ceiling, but something terrible had happened there. As it responded to me, the ceiling lifting slightly and the walls growing less opaque, reflecting my perspective-seeking eye, I noticed that curious mottled knots were forming, indicating where the room had been strained and healed faultily....

From Restoration of Large Damage Volumes in Polymers via Frolix_8.

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