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Self-Healing Plastic

April 18, 2012

Scientists have developed a plastic that repairs itself when damaged.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Self-healing plastics…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Plastic has transformed modern life, but it’s not known for its durability. Now, researchers at the University of Mississippi have designed a type of plastic that not only senses when it’s been damaged, but repairs itself. Materials scientist Marek Urban and his team have added tiny molecular bridges to the chemical chains that make up plastic. If the plastic is scratched, these bridges change color, alerting the user.

MAREK URBAN (University of Mississippi):

And upon exposure to visible light, the color changes back to neutral and the material is being self-healed.

HIRSHON:

He says the technology has a broad range of possible applications, from refreshing your scratched cell phone to improving aircraft safety.

URBAN:

From an environmental point of view you’d like to have more sustainability; from a safety point of view you would like to have materials that would self-repair upon mechanical damage.

HIRSHON:

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Click here to view a video of the self-healing process (clip courtesy of Marek Urban/University of Mississippi)