Researchers from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT; Karlsruhe, Germany) and Evonik Industries (Essen, Germany) have developed a novel polymer network that heals itself at relatively low temperatures. The healing process is very quick and can be repeated as often as necessary.
Self-healing properties can be incorporated into a broad spectrum of known plastics. In addition to self-healing, however, the starting material employed also possesses another beneficial property: flowability increases at elevated temperatures, making the resulting substance well suited to molding processes.
One potential application is in parts manufactured from fiber-reinforced plastics for use in the automotive and aviation industries, where cracks that form after damage would be self-healing. The mechanism proceeds via a chemical curing reaction that allows material to heal well within a short period of time upon gentle heating. The researchers have published the results of their work in the journal Advanced Materials (DOI:10.1002/adma.201306258).