Call it whatever you want — the Wolverine plastic, the Terminator material, the Doctor Who ingredient — but this new regenerating polymer is amazing.
A team at the University of Pittsburgh has developed a formula for a novel substance that uses nanorods to rebuild itself when part of it has been severed. Essentially, the nanorods are embedded in a polymer gel; when a chunk of the material gets lopped off, the nanorods move into place and start a reaction that rebuilds what’s missing. The process is actually modelled after how lizards and salamanders regrow their tails and it marks a big step forward in self-healing materials.
“This is one of the holy grails of materials science,” noted Dr Anna Balazs, the principal investigator on the project. “While others have developed materials that can mend small defects, there is no published research regarding systems that can regenerate bulk sections of a severed material.”
Of course, like the self-healing materials we’ve seen in the past, this stuff only exists in the lab for now — but it’s still exciting to know that the future of materials science doesn’t stop at 3D printing. Because who needs a 3D printer when the plastic of the future can just grow on its own. [Science Daily]
Picture: Flickr / bamyers4az