Self-healing autonomous material comes to life

December 7, 2010, American Institute of Physics

You've seen it in movies: the human-like, robot assassin quickly regenerates its structure after being damaged beyond recognition. This "Terminator" scenario is becoming less far-fetched as recent advances in structural health monitoring systems have led to a variety of ways to identify damage to a structural system.

Now, in the , researchers at Arizona State University have created a material that may be able to not only sense damage in , such as cracking in a fiber-reinforced composite, but to even heal it. The aim of developing "autonomous adaptive structures" is to mimic the ability of biological systems such as bone to sense the presence of damage, halt its progression, and regenerate itself.

The novel autonomous material developed by Henry Sodano and colleagues uses "shape-memory" polymers with an embedded fiber-optic network that functions as both the damage detection sensor and thermal stimulus delivery system to produce a response that mimics the advanced sensory and healing traits shown in . An transmits light through the fiber-optic system to locally heat the material, stimulating the toughening and healing mechanisms.

The material system is capable of increasing the toughness of a specimen by 11 times. After toughening the specimen, the crack can be closed using the shape-memory effect to recover an unprecedented 96 percent of the object's original strength. In fact, after the crack is closed, the new material is nearly five times as tough as the original specimen, even though it has been strained past its original failure strain point by a factor of four.

The material and can be applied while the structure is in operation, which has not been possible with existing healing techniques.

Explore further: New recipe for self-healing plastic includes dash of food additive

More information: The article, "Autonomous Materials with Controlled Toughening and Healing" by Michael Garcia, Yirong Lin, and Henry Angelo Sodano appears in the Journal of Applied Physics. See: link.aip.org/link/japiau/v108/i9/p093512/s1

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11 comments

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NotAsleep
5 / 5 (3) Dec 07, 2010
Some day I want a car that never has to be repainted with a windshield that never has to be replaced due to cracks...
Mr_Man
not rated yet Dec 07, 2010
Some day I want a car that never has to be repainted with a windshield that never has to be replaced due to cracks...


I could see the automatic repairing windshield becoming a reality some day.
SteveL
5 / 5 (1) Dec 07, 2010
Self-healing body armor and combat vehicle armor would be quite a boon to modern militaries and to avionics. If such systems could be produced to also be light and rugged.
Magus
not rated yet Dec 07, 2010
Wonder if they will find a better way that what we are our bodies use and be able to replace some of our own internal repair systems.
Tektrix
not rated yet Dec 07, 2010
Self-healing wire insulation would save many lives and millions of dollars every year.
jjoensuu
not rated yet Dec 07, 2010
self-healing bridges could be useful, using this and that other technology of "self-healing concrete" (http://www.physor...94.html)
rgwalther
not rated yet Dec 07, 2010
Some day I want a car that never has to be repainted with a windshield that never has to be replaced due to cracks...


Sounds like a good formula for a wife.
CSharpner
not rated yet Dec 07, 2010
I want self-healing break-pads and discs and all other parts that ware down over time. It would be cool if, in addition to a gas tank (or batteries), that our cars had "stomachs" where we'd pour in liquefied raw material which would then be "digested" and distributed to the worn parts that have lost mass with use. I'm sick of paying as much in repairs for my Chevy as I do in car payments!
hourifromparadise
not rated yet Dec 08, 2010
And last but not least the self healing brain . What a bless for humanity !
NotAsleep
not rated yet Dec 09, 2010
I want self-healing break-pads and discs and all other parts that ware down over time. It would be cool if, in addition to a gas tank (or batteries), that our cars had "stomachs" where we'd pour in liquefied raw material which would then be "digested" and distributed to the worn parts that have lost mass with use. I'm sick of paying as much in repairs for my Chevy as I do in car payments!


Why not buy a horse?
rgwalther
not rated yet Dec 20, 2010
no

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