Researchers create self-healing polymer material

Researchers have investigated some creatures in the animal kingdom for their abilities to replicate body parts and heal with the hope of bringing that ability to medicine to help humans. Examples include lizards who can lose their tail and grow it back and starfish that can regrown arms. Researchers from Islam Research Group, Morphing Matter Lab at Carnegie Mellon University, and Kawahara Lab at the University of Tokyo have all worked together to create a Self-healing UI.The Self-healing UI is a soft-bodied interface able to self-heal damage, reconfigure, and fuse without external stimuli or glue. The key to the Self-healing UI is a composite material made of a self-healing polymer polyborosiloxane (PBS) and a filler material of multi-walled carbon nanotubes called MWCNTs-PBS. The material has mechanical and electrical self-healing capability.

The researchers developed a hybrid model that combines PBS and MWCNTs-PB, along with other common soft materials such as fabric and silicone, to build an interface with self-healing, sensing, and actuation capability. The team says it envisions a controller device that can dynamically change its shape and number of modules. In testing, the team was able to do things such as cut two controllers into four pieces to allow them to work as four half-sized gaming devices with touch sensors in each section. After use, the four sections can be joined together into the original two controllers.

The team was also able to create a self-healing damage sensor matrix as a second skin. The technology was also developed into a conventional pneumatic soft actuator that can be cut and reconfigured. In the image above, a "healing heart" is seen that features embedded LED components and a MWCNTs-PB cut sensor inside.

The heart can detect when it is cut into halves, and are when the halves are joined together. It can heal entirely in six hours. The team isn't clear on its plans for this self-healing material. The video above shows the material in testing and development.