New material has emerged that can quickly regenerate itself. It reacts to water and even to light, while completely decomposing.
Researchers have developed a self-healing material that is inspired by squid teeth. The biosynthetic polymer can be used to repair parts of objects that wear out due to constant movement – robot parts, prostheses, ventilators, or protective suits.
The development was carried out by scientists from the University of Pennsylvania – they have presented strong synthetic proteins that mimic those found in nature. To do this, they studied a large database of proteins and noticed that squid teeth are especially strong due to the structure and location of macromolecules. Due to the blocks of monomers differing in their properties, they do not delaminate, since the parts of the molecule are bonded to each other.
The ring teeth of squid are predatory appendages located on suction cups to capture prey. If teeth break, they heal on their own. The soft parts in the proteins help the damaged parts of the teeth heal while the structure itself remains rigid.
“Materials wear partly due to repetitive movements – tiny tears and cracks form on them, which can expand over time. This problem can be solved with the help of a self-healing synthetic material – it itself eliminates weak areas and increases the service life of devices several times”.
Stephanie McElhinney, Head of Biochemistry Program, University of Penn
The scientists noted that other methods of recovering materials are not perfect: they use hazardous chemicals. Moreover, sometimes such materials are restored for a long time – up to 24 hours. This self-healing polymer, on the other hand, reacts to water and heat, in some cases the process is even triggered by light.
By adjusting the number of repetitions within the material, the researchers created a soft polymer that heals quickly and retains its original strength. However, it completely decomposes or it can be processed into the same polymer without loss of quality.