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Military vehicles could soon feature self-healing paint


March 19, 2014

The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is one of the suggested recipients of the polyfibroblast primer

The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is one of the suggested recipients of the polyfibroblast primer

According to the US Department of Defense, corrosion costs the Navy approximately US$7 billion every year. That's certainly an incentive for developing a method of keeping military vehicles from rusting. Now, researchers from the Office of Naval Research and The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory may be onto something. They're looking into the use a powder that could allow scratched or chipped paint to "heal like human skin."

The powder, known as polyfibroblast, consists of microscopic polymer spheres that contain an oily resin. Polyfibroblast can be added to paint primer, in order to completely cover the exterior surfaces of a vehicle. When the primer is scratched, the spheres in that area rupture, causing the resin that was inside of them to flow out. That resin forms a "waxy, water-repellant coating," that protects the exposed steel from the elements.

In a lab test, steel surfaces coated with the resin were able to resist rusting for up to six weeks, when kept in a chamber filled with salt fog.

If any of this sounds familiar, it's because other self-healing paints have already been developed, that also utilize spheres filled with liquid. While those are more concerned with maintaining the aesthetics of cars, however, the polyfibroblast primer is aimed squarely at protecting military vehicles in a variety of environments.

"We don’t care if it’s pretty," said Johns Hopkins' Dr. Jason Benkoski, lead scientist on the project. "We only care about preventing corrosion."

Source: Office of Naval Research

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth
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