Scientists Create New Self-Repairing Material
Inspired by the comic book character Wolverine, scientists created a new material that can heal on its own in under 24 hours.
While some people might think comic books are a fun distraction, they’ve made a difference in the real world. Case in point: Several noteworthy characters have inspired exciting new developments in the wound care industry. In spring 2016, a team of scientists from the UK used the web-shooter of the iconic Spider-Man as the basis for a gun that can create customizable dressings.
Now, a group of researchers from the University of California, Riverside have found similar inspiration in Wolverine, a mutant hero with claws and powers of regeneration. It’s the latter ability that most interested the team, and as they detail in a new study in the journal Advanced Materials, they’ve created a self-healing material that has multiple purposes.
The material in question is described as an ionic conductor, and is effectively a series of microscopic robots that work in unison. In order to create the material, the UCR team looked not only to Wolverine but also how wounds heal in mammal models. To actually get a material that can heal on its own, the researchers had to make use of what’s called the ion-dipole force. According to Boundless, this phenomenon is an attraction between ions and molecules with two magnetized poles. Even when pulled apart, the ion and molecule are eventually drawn back together.
So just how effective is the material, which is similar in consistency to rubber? It can be stretched up to 50 times without losing its durability. When it’s finally cut or torn, the material will heal in just under 24 hours, and it can be stretched again right after it’s finished healing. It’s worth noting that the material works best at room temperature, and the impact of cold has yet to be fully established.
In an accompanying press release, co-author Chao Wang explained the material had been puzzling the UCR team for several years, as they experienced issues with finding a way to let the material heal on its own. Similar self-healing polymers, for instance, use non-covalent bonds, and these can be affected by electrochemical reactions.
This Wolverine material, however, doesn’t suffer from such laminations, and that will allow it to be used for several functions. While that exact list is still being determined – though use in extending lithium-ion batteries was mentioned – the sky could very well be the limit for this astounding new material.
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