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New plastic bleeds and heals like human skin

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March 27, 2012

A new plastic demonstrated to the American Chemical Society on Monday not only professes t...

A new plastic demonstrated to the American Chemical Society on Monday not only professes to self-repair when exposed to light, but to change color when damaged in a process akin to the bleeding of human skin (Photo: Shutterstock)

Gizmag regulars will be well-used to the idea of self-healing materials, and even materials that repair themselves when exposed to light; but a new plastic demonstrated to the American Chemical Society on Monday purports to be the first self-healing material to incorporate a damage-reporting mechanism, almost akin to the bleeding of human skin.

"Our new plastic tries to mimic nature, issuing a red signal when damaged and then renewing itself when exposed to visible light, temperature or pH changes," said Professor Marek W. Urban, Ph.D of the University of Southern Mississippi.

Urban's plastic contains molecular bridges that span the polymer chains that comprise the plastic. Should the plastic become damaged, these bridges break down; but when exposed to light (or a temperature or acidic vapor) these linkages are able to repair themselves. But additionally, Urban has rigged the bridges to change color - to red - when such damage occurs, with the color change fading away when the material repairs - essentially heals - itself.

Such a material has obvious benefits when applied to consumer goods, such as laptops and mobile phones. Dropping the device would result in hairline cracks turning red, highlighting a need for repair (whereupon you need only expose the thing to intense light). But Urban also foresees heavier-duty applications: car fenders, aircraft components and even battlefield weapons systems among them (Urban has received U.S. Department of Defense funding for the research).

Source: American Chemical Society

About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life.   All articles by James Holloway
7 Comments

And its environmentally biodegradeable right? Do i want my mobile to bleed? Im not sure cos i already feel bad when it decides to commit suicide from whereever i put it.

MasterG
27th March, 2012 @ 10:48 am PDT

That's actually really cool. Does they come in green? I want my phone to be a Vulcan!

...wait, getting mind-melded with a computer every time I make a call would actually be a bad thing. But at least I could knock people out by jabbing them with it!

Onihikage
28th March, 2012 @ 09:03 am PDT

It's all Cylon technology... ;)

Matt Rings
28th March, 2012 @ 09:39 am PDT

I'm with Rings on this. Build an axial spaceship out of it to launch little drones and you're almost there. Maybe put those automated firefighting robots on there to run it haha.

Tyler Totten
28th March, 2012 @ 01:28 pm PDT

Finally! We're one step closer to war with the machines! The AI is the only thing that's missing now...

Nitrozzy7
28th March, 2012 @ 04:22 pm PDT

Does anybody remember a plastic material called Expanded Royalite? It was a material developed by US Royal to be used in auto bodies, the first being the Cord 812 repop gotta be 30 years ago. It would repair its dents and scratches when exposed to intense light. Only saw it written up in a couple of magazines. Never saw the car go into production either.

Dave Ditner
28th March, 2012 @ 04:55 pm PDT

A skin job iPhone cover...no thanks.

Daniel Murray
30th March, 2012 @ 09:42 am PDT
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