Wolverine and his ability to self-heal his wounds, thanks to his regenerative capacity, must have been the inspiration for this group of scientists at the University of California in Riverside (USA) when they created this unusual material: a self-healing, electricity-conducting polymer.
It was introduced during the 253rd American Chemical Society National Meeting & Exposition, paving a promising path in the field of electronics. So, what is it exactly about?
“A new self-healing material. If split in two, pieces are completely merged again in just a day.”
This innovative material is composed of a transparent and flexible polymer, vinylidene fluoride and hexafluoropropylene, and a type of ionic salt. According to the researchers, it conducts ions in order to generate electricity, it´s a low-cost material, it can be stretched up to 50 times its original size and, if split in two, its pieces completely merge again in just one day.
Considering these features, it is already being regarded as an excellent candidate to become the base material for soft robotics and smartphone device manufacturing. So far, it has been utilized to fabricate a new lithium battery, but it could be incorporated into casings or screens soon, thus allowing them to self-repair in case of scratching.
Scientists are yet to test this material under unfavourable conditions, since they admitted that water can alter its mechanical properties. Maybe within three or four years it will be an integral component in what we will undoubtedly dub “smart” mobile phone devices.
Self-repairing artificial tendons or prosthetics?
The University of Alicante (Spain) has developed another type of polymer with very similar characteristics, but achieving the self-repairing process in a different way. José Miguel Martín Martínez and his research team at the Adhesion and Adhesives Laboratory introduced in late 2015 a material capable of recovering 70% of its properties in less than a minute and, if cut in half, realigning itself entirely in just one day.
This finding was, as in many other occasions, the result of serendipity. While working on durable materials for coating oil transportation pipes, they realized that some of the elements they were using appeared in a combined form the next day.
This new self-repairing material achieves its properties through a physical process and, according to researchers, it can be replicated as many times as needed. In addition, its water-resistant qualities make it susceptible of being used in multiple applications, such as artificial tendon or prosthetics manufacturing, or as an integral part of electronic devices.
Source: El Mundo