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Plastic Regeneration

May 14, 2014

One day, plastics in many a variety of products may repair themselves.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Plastics that fix themselves. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Could plastics heal themselves? (Nathan Bajandas/Beckman Institute, University of Illinois)

Could plastics heal themselves? (Nathan Bajandas/Beckman Institute, University of Illinois)

Living things have all sorts of clever mechanisms to repair themselves, like skin that heals wounds and bones that knit together breaks. In the journal Science, University of Illinois aerospace engineer Scott White describes vascularized plastics he and his team have developed that do the same thing. The plastics have two fluid networks, each with a different liquid. White explains that if the plastic breaks or tears, the liquids gush out, mix and form gels that heal the wound and gradually harden.

SCOTT WHITE (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign):

And the ultimate goal is materials that constantly regenerate themselves throughout their entire lifetime.

HIRSHON:

He says the first applications would be in satellites and other situations where repair by humans is difficult, but the materials could eventually find use in cars, boats and even consumer products that can heal themselves.  I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.