Biomimetic file 147: self-healing materials

Self-healing materials 


Picture: Kamenetskiy Konstantin/Shutterstock

Highlight: “Drawing inspiration from how the body heals wounds…the team of researchers at the University of Bristol has been working with aerospace engineers to develop a system which is able to self-patch over small, almost undetectable cracks in the wings of planes while in operation.”

Insight: The power to self-heal is associated with living organisms. Without self-healing benefits species including ourselves would not live very long; a simple scratch would become life threatening. Applying the concept to the structural world could significantly alter the longevity of materials and systems.

Often damages in infrastructures occur as a result of progressive fatigue and worsens over time to gain scale (e.g. an opening fissure) which can lead to a catastrophic outcome. The key is to tackle the damage while it is still at a micro scale and developments in nanotechnologies can now make this possible.

The potential that self-healing materials could offer is tremendous, from applications such as safety critical systems (the airplane wing here presented is a good example of that) to difficult and dangerous to access areas like the core of a  nuclear reactor or deep sub-sea infrastructures. In addition to improving safety, such self -healing technology could save significant amounts of money in reducing maintenance or repair costs…

More information: here

What is Biomimetics: the field of gaining inspiration from nature first to solve some of our most difficult challenges. Instead of coming up with our own solutions to a problematic, the odds are that species on the planet already offer an ultimate solution. This simple fact is also another strong case to preserve species at all cost as the intellectual heritage contained within or through the study of species is both irreplaceable and invaluable…