Researchers at the University of Illinois are developing materials that can heal themselves or keep themselves from becoming too hot or cold.
The materials, called “autonomous materials,” include plastics, resins and electronics. A team of U of I researchers is publishing a paper on the work in the journal Nature this week.
To heal themselves, the materials use vascular systems like those of plants and animals, in some cases moving liquids through the material that can become solid and repair damage like cracks or chips, explained PhD fellow Tony Griffin.
“This allows airplanes, cars and such to heal themselves on the go. if there's some damage .. or cracks, then we can repair those right away without any human intervention,” Griffin said. “That allows you to get back on the road, get back in the air right away instead of having to wait for a whole inspection which may not even catch that damage in the first place.”
The work is funded by several agencies and groups, including the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.