CINCINNATI — Researchers at Case Western Reserve University have developed materials that can heal themselves.
A team, led by Case Western professor Stuart Rowan, is working on structurally dynamic polymers that respond to stimuli like ultraviolet light.
Rowan also is director of the university's Institute for Advanced Materials.
The adaptive polymer systems rely on reversible chemistry to prompt a response at the molecular level. The materials are called metallo-supramolecular polymers or MSPs and are made by essentially binding metal ions and polymers.
In simpler terms: you can shine a light on a scratched film and the scratch disappears, like it was never there in the first place.
Once the material has been healed, you can't find the scratch again, Rowan said, adding that the material can be scratched and healed repeatedly.
The team has also worked on similar technology to make films with shape memory. For example, a film wrapped around a tube and exposed to ultraviolet light will hold a spiral shape, until it's dropped in water where it springs back into a flat shape.
Now that the research team has proved their process works, they're starting to design materials that are more commercially available, Rowan said.
He emphasized that it's are a relatively new technology and more understanding is needed before commercializing.