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NEW REGENERATING POLYMER

So far, self-repairing materials have only been successful at microscopic level and capable of correcting minor surface scratches, however, scientists are now developing a new plastic capable of filling large spaces.

This new plastic is inspired by living organisms. Two different substances flow through a network of channels. When the item is damaged, this microscopic pipe network breaks and the material “bleeds”. When the liquids mix, they combine to form a gel which is solid enough to support its own weight. It is also porous enough to allow more liquid to flow through.

The gel spreads until it completely fills the hole or cut. A 30 millimetre bullet hole in a three-millimetre thick plate self-seals in just 20 minutes.

The Erum group is studying possible uses for this material in the near future, where the structure of vehicles will be able to regenerate after an accident, or mobile telephone displays that are dropped on the ground will self repair. Another possible application would be aeronautics, where some parts are difficult to replace or repair.

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