Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Self-Healing Plastic

When it's only a scratch

Last week I wrote about turning plastic into fuel oil. In keeping with the plastics theme, I have a story about self-healing plastics.

Polymer scientists have been working on approaches to self-healing materials for at least a decade. Most involve heat or light applied to the area of damage.

At a meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Diego this week, a polymer scientist named Marek Urban from the University of Southern Mississippi presented work showing a new development – plastics that initially respond to damage with a color change, and that then can "heal" when exposed to light. Special sensor elements are spaced at regular intervals within the polymer so that when surface damage occurs, a visual indication takes place. Some are comparing this to "bleeding." This change also prepares the plastic for the subsequent healing step, in which specific wavelengths of light cause the exposed material to undergo slight transformations that can result in a closing of the scratch.

So what's this stuff good for? Could it be used to restore scratched car and boat exteriors, patio furniture, and smartphone cases?

Is this an interesting development, and do you have an idea on how this technology could be used? Leave a comment and let us know what you think!


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