Regenerating Polymer Developed
Self-healing polymers are pretty cool materials that have the ability to repair cracks, scratches, and cuts on their own. If an object has lost a major piece of itself though, the self-healing property will not be able to do much. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University however have developed a model for materials with the ability to regenerate bulk sections.
Regeneration is not a new concept for science, as many animals are able to regenerate severed limbs. This already-studied process helped the researchers identify the criteria for this work: initiation; propagation; and termination. To allow a material to sense when a portion of itself has been removed, the researchers added nanorods, of which the ones nearest to the new surface, move towards it. These nanorods then will cause polymerization reactions with molecules in a solution, to grow more of polymer. Through the computer model, the researchers also realized how to control the process, so as to stop it when necessary, and ensure the newly-grown material looks like the old one.
As this is currently just a computer model, it could be years before an actual regenerating polymer is created. For now though, the researchers will continue to work to optimize the model for when that polymer is ready to be made.
Source: University of Pittsburgh