Photo: Flickr/Clifford Joseph Kozak
Researchers have created a genre of plastics that change colour to warn of wounds and heal themselves when exposed to light, as reported by EurekAlert!.The new plastic, introduced at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), issues a red signal when damaged and then renews itself when exposed to ordinary sunlight or visible light from a light bulb.
Normally when plastic is scratched or cracked, the long chains of chemicals that link the material together break and change shape.
The researchers, led by Marek W. Urban, Ph.D., tweaked the chain links so that changes in shape produce a red splotch around defects and light causes the links to reform while the red mark disappears.
The technology introduces a wide range of applications because it could endow numerous products such as cell phones, laptops, cars and planes with self-repairing surfaces.
Scratches in automobile fenders, for instance, might be repaired by simply exposing the fender to intense light. Critical structural parts in aircraft might warn of damage by turning red along cracks so that engineers could decide whether to shine the light and heal the damage or undertake a complete replacement of the component. And there could be a range of applications in battlefield weapons systems.
Other self-healing plastics are made of potentially toxic ingredients and rely on embedded healing compounds that can self-repair only once.
The new plastic is produced by a water-based process and can heal itself over and over again.
Urban’s team of researchers is now working on incorporating the technology into plastics that can withstand high temperatures.
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