The healing process demonstrated in the caoutchouc tree-inspired elastomer (Photo: Fraunhofer)
When the caoutchouc tree is damaged, liquid latex containing capsules of the protein hevein escapes from inside of it. Those capsules rupture, releasing the hevein, which links the latex particles together and ultimately closes up the wound. The whole bursting/sealing-microcapsules thing is obviously a pretty good idea, as it has been put to use in human technology such as self-healing concrete, electronics, paint and aircraft epoxy resin. Now, German researchers have copied the caoutchouc tree’s modus operandi to create a self-sealing elastic polymer.