Plastic, Heal Thyself
Modeled after the way the human body heals itself, a new breed of plastics is
on the horizon that can not only heal micro-cracks, but prevent the propagation
of a crack in progress. Headed by a team at the U. of Illinois, the self-healing
plastics incorporate small capsules that release a healing agent when a crack forms.
The agent travels to the break through small capillaries that simulate how blood
flows to a wound. Polymerization is triggered automatically when the healing agent
makes contact with a catalyst embedded in the plastic. The reaction forms a polymer
to repair the broken edges of the material. The rounded capsules act as stress relief
points to arrest crack propagation.