Researchers at the University of Southern Mississippi led by Dr. Marek Urban have developed a new type of plastic that has properties inspired by the human skin. When scratched or damaged, the new copolymer turns red as if bleeding and it can heal itself through exposure to sunlight.
The plastic is made from more environmentally friendly water-based copolymers that form a molecular bridge in its polymer chains. When the plastic gets scratched or cracked, these bridges break and produce a visible color change. If applied as a thin coating to other layers of plastic, the copolymer could serve in detecting damages and self-healing minor defects.
The red splotch that forms when the plastic gets “injured” could help improve safety by drawing attention to those areas so that it can be repaired if the damage is excessive. Areas on the plastic with minor scratches or defects can repair itself in the presence of intense light.