News / Science & Technology

Scientists Create Plastic That Repairs Itself

FILE - Illinois researchers have developed materials that regenerate when the restorative material is delivered through two, isolated fluid streams (dyed red and blue), and the liquid immediately gels and later hardens. (Ryan Gergely)
FILE - Illinois researchers have developed materials that regenerate when the restorative material is delivered through two, isolated fluid streams (dyed red and blue), and the liquid immediately gels and later hardens. (Ryan Gergely)
Jessica Berman
Modeled on the blood vessels that make up the human circulatory system, scientists have created a plastic material that repairs itself. Researchers believe self-regenerating plastic could be used in many ways.

Imagine a sheet of plastic with a tear or hole in the middle; suddenly, the breach begins to fill in. Within a few seconds, the hole is completely covered with new plastic material. In a couple of hours, the plastic is as hard as ever.

Central to this self-regeneration process, according to inventor Scott White of the University of Illinois Urbana, are parallel, vascular-like channels through which liquid repair material is funneled onto the damaged plastic.  

A big challenge in the development of the self-regeneration system was gravity, which would make the repair material leak out. Scientists developed two chemicals, though, which mix and congeal immediately after reaching the damage site. The material then fills the hole or crack in the plastic by folding on top of itself until the entire breach is patched.

Watch related video report
 



White said scientists got the idea from the human circulatory system and the body’s use of platelets to repair a wound.

“If we had a major gash, there’s a possibility we could bleed out," he said. "But if that cut is not too severe, we should see a clot form and then the repair process takes place underneath that clot. And this is the same kind of principle here.”

Self-healing plastic could be used in a number of ways, White said. For example, it could be used as a protective coating on metal.

“If you had a regenerative coating in this case, you could basically walk away and be assured there is always going to be a coating on that substrate [material to be protected] and never have to worry about a corrosion process happening anymore,” he said.

White, a professor of aerospace engineering, said that might be useful on the deck of ships, which commonly get scrapped and dinged, causing rust to form, or as a coating on car bumpers to repair dings and scrapes.  

White said the research is in the early stages; currently, the repair is visible. In time, however, he said it will be difficult to see where the damage was after the plastic regenerates itself.

You May Like

Analysis: China Raises Hong Kong Rhetoric to Tiananmen Level

A front-page commentary in The People’s Daily called the current demonstrations 'chaos,' the same word Party officials used 25 years ago to describe the Tiananmen Square protests More

US Airstrikes Anger Syrian Civilians Fleeing Their Homes

Pentagon officials say they have seen no credible evidence of civilian deaths caused by US airstrikes against Islamic State militants More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous from: UK
May 12, 2014 3:51 PM
So what about it's biodegradable properties?

In Response

by: W
May 13, 2014 5:55 PM
Not biodegradable, but then again it wasn't designed to replace water bottles. We're talking about expensive, hard to place structural materials for aerospace.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid