Bullet holes are no problem for this new regenerating plastic.
Researchers at the University of Illinois have invented a process for regenerating polymer that offers a significant leap in the technology, so much so that it can recover from a gunshot-sized-hole in just a few seconds.
Many scientific teams are investigating the possibilities for self-regenerating plastics, and some versions have been developed that can fix small cuts and hairline fractures, but this research team developed a unique way to mix the plastic materials that not only heals fractures, but can regenerate over large cracks and holes.
"We have demonstrated repair of a nonliving, synthetic materials system in a way that is reminiscent of repair-by-regrowth as seen in some living systems," said Jeffry Moore, chemistry professor who worked on the research team.
The team used a technique dubbed "vascular delivery," based on the way human veins deliver blood to vital organs.
"In this case, the liquid materials are two chemicals that flow into the gaps created by damage via parallel capillaries. These chemicals, inspired by the way blood coagulates in the open air, mix in the spaces to form a gel, which hardens into a strong polymer," CNET reported. "This restores the plastic's structural integrity."
Guided by aerospace engineering professor Scott White, the team has tested their system on thermoplastics and thermosets, and they have successfully regenerated a hole created by a 9 mm bullet.
While their current experiments use chemicals compounds that feed into the plastic, the team envisions pre-filled plastic options with the chemicals that can combine to self-regenerate as needed -- just imagine a self-healing car bumper, or more automatic repairs on space vehicles.
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