Researchers announced Monday that they have invented a new “self-healing” material that quickly rebuilds itself when cracked, a development that they believe could be used to create artificial body tissues.
The material is called a self-adaptive composite (SAC) by inventors and consists of a matrix of miniscule rubber-like balls. When broken, the material heals rapidly as the micron-sized balls reconnect to each other. The material also bounces back to its original shape when compressed, like a sponge.
Previous attempts at self-healing materials involve liquids that flow back together when broken. Researchers behind SAC wanted to create a more stable and more flexible material that, if perfected, could be used inside a human body or as a lightweight structural component in industrial applications.
The researchers from Rice University in Texas published the details of the invention in the journal Applied Materials and Interfaces, which is published by the American Chemical Society. The United States Air Force and the Department of Defense provided some funding for the research.
“The sample doesn't give you the impression that it contains any liquid,” lead study author Jun Lou said in a statement. “That's very different from a gel. This is not really squishy; it's more like a sugar cube that you can compress quite a lot. The nice thing is that it recovers.”
Importantly, the size of the material is limited only by the size of the container it is created in.
Another biotech development announced Monday involved the invention of a polymer that has the same chemical properties of soft tissues in the body. Developed at Syracuse University in New York, the material’s inventors believe it could be one day used to create artificial blood vessels.
The research was published in the Journal of Polymer Science B: Polymer Physics.