Plastic, Heal Thyself
Modeled after the way the human body heals itself, a new breed of plastics is on the horizon that can not only heal micro-cracks, but prevent the propagation of a crack in progress. Headed by a team at the U. of Illinois, the self-healing plastics incorporate small capsules that release a healing agent when a crack forms. The agent travels to the break through small capillaries that simulate how blood flows to a wound. Polymerization is triggered automatically when the healing agent makes contact with a catalyst embedded in the plastic. The reaction forms a polymer to repair the broken edges of the material. The rounded capsules act as stress relief points to arrest crack propagation.