Looking at a smooth sheet of plastic in one University of Illinois laboratory, no one would guess that an impact had recently blasted a hole through it.
Illinois researchers have developed materials that not only heal, but regenerate. Until now, self-repairing materials could only bond tiny microscopic cracks. The new regenerating materials fill in large cracks and holes by regrowing material.
Photo by Ryan Gergely
Illinois researchers have developed materials that not only heal, but regenerate. The restorative material is delivered through two, isolated fluid streams (dyed red and blue). The liquid immediately gels and later hardens, resulting in recovery of the entire damaged region. This image is halfway through the restoration process.
Led by professor Scott White, the research team comprises professors Jeffry S. Moore and Nancy Sottos and graduate students Brett Krull, Windy Santa Cruz and Ryan Gergely. They report their work in the May 9 issue of the journal Science.
“We have demonstrated repair of a nonliving, synthetic materials system in a way that is reminiscent of repair-by-regrowth as seen in some living systems,” said Moore, a professor of chemistry.
Such self-repair capabilities would be a boon not only for commercial
goods – imagine a mangled car bumper that repairs itself within minutes of an accident – but also for parts and products that are difficult to replace or repair, such as those used in aerospace applications.
The regenerating capabilities build on the team’s previous work in developing vascular materials. Using specially formulated fibers that disintegrate, the researchers can create materials with networks of capillaries inspired by biological circulatory systems.
“Vascular delivery lets us deliver a large volume of healing agents – which, in turn, enables restoration of large damage zones,” said Sottos, a professor of materials science and engineering. “The vascular approach also enables multiple restorations if the material is damaged more than once.”
For regenerating materials, two adjoining, parallel capillaries are filled with regenerative chemicals that flow out when damage occurs. The two liquids mix to form a gel, which spans the gap caused by damage, filling in cracks and holes. Then the gel hardens into a strong polymer, restoring the plastic’s mechanical strength.
“We have to battle a lot of extrinsic factors for regeneration, including gravity,” said study leader White, a professor of aerospace engineering. “The reactive liquids we use form a gel fairly quickly, so that as it’s released it starts to harden immediately. If it didn’t, the liquids would just pour out of the damaged area and you’d essentially bleed out. Because it forms a gel, it supports and retains the fluids. Since it’s not a structural material yet, we can continue the regrowth process by pumping more fluid into the hole.”
The team demonstrated their regenerating system on the two biggest classes of commercial plastics: thermoplastics and thermosets. The researchers can tune the chemical reactions to control the speed of the gel formation or the speed of the hardening, depending on the kind of damage. For example, a bullet impact might cause a radiating series of cracks as well as a central hole, so the gel reaction could be slowed to allow the chemicals to seep into the cracks before hardening.
The researchers envision commercial plastics and polymers with vascular networks filled with regenerative agents ready to be deployed whenever damage occurs, much like biological healing. Their previous work established ease of manufacturing, so now they are working to optimize the regenerative chemical systems for different types of materials.
“For the first time, we’ve shown that you can regenerate lost material in a structural polymer. That’s the kicker here,” White said, “Prior to this work, if you cut off a piece of material, it’s gone. Now we’ve shown that the material can actually regrow.”
Moore, Sottos and White also are affiliated with the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the U. of I. The Air Force Office of Scientific Research supported this work.
The paper, “Restoration of Large Damage Volumes in Polymers,” is available from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Downloadable high-resolution images with cutlines are available.
Liz Ahlberg | University of Illinois
ADIR Project: Lasers Recover Valuable Materials
21.07.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT
High-tech sensing illuminates concrete stress testing
20.07.2017 | University of Leeds
Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.
For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...
What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.
To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...
The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....
A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...
Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision
Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...
21.07.2017 | Event News
19.07.2017 | Event News
12.07.2017 | Event News
21.07.2017 | Earth Sciences
21.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
21.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy