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.