We know some of you are so clumsy you can barely walk without falling over. Fortunately for you, a new type of plastic can heal itself when it’s scratched, dented or just generally beaten up.
By adding some extra ingredients and a pinch of a zinc compound to a traditional epoxy resin, a team of French researchers have made a plastic whose chemical bonds continually break and reform. When it’s cold, the material is pretty rigid, maintaining its shape. Warm it up though, and the plastic becomes malleable, allowing the material to heal small scratches and dents.
Normally synthetic plastics fall into two types: thermoplastics and thermosets. The former can be heated and remoulded but are weak, and the latter can only be processed once but are strong. This new plastic sits in the middle: it’s possible to remould it, but it’s also strong. It even maintains its properties when it’s ground up and recycled.