Beyond Self-Healing, Self-Regenerating Material Developed
We all know that stuff happens and our possessions get damaged one way or another. Repairing the damage may be too difficult or too costly to attempt, but for some systems and devices, the damage must be repaired. Researchers at the University of Illinois though have developed a means for plastics to repair themselves, even when they are missing a piece.
Self-healing materials have been developed before, but their healing abilities are limited to repair scratches and other small defects. If the material has a hole in it though, the healing mechanisms will not work for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most obvious is gravity, as the fluids that will harden to repair the material may bleed out before being useful. The Illinois researchers overcame that issue by selecting repair fluids that gel very quickly, similar to our blood's ability to clot. Before gravity has a chance to pull the fluids too far, they have already gelled and are strong enough to not leak, as more fluid is added. This allows holes to be filled, repairing what could otherwise be serious damage.
Eventually the researchers would like to see self-regenerating materials with the ability to not only repair themselves but actually replace themselves, similar to tissues and organs within our bodies. Even without that capability, these materials could prove very useful for many commercial applications, as you can no doubt imagine.