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Image credit: University of Reading

This plastic could make paint scratches a thing of the past

A little heat is all that's needed for the self-healing to begin.
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University of Reading

Self-healing plastics are nothing new. In fact, IBM stumbled across the discovery of one such polymer by accident not too long ago. But now there's a new Wolverine-like plastic stealing the headlines (okay, fine... 'science journal' headlines) and this time it hails from researchers at the University of Reading in the UK. The supramolecular polyurethane, developed with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, reportedly repairs itself at body temperature (98.6 degrees F or 37 degrees C). The new material's unique properties allow it to "[flow] like a liquid" when its bonds are disrupted and reform, as its viscosity is lowered when damaged.

Since it's been proven non-toxic to humans, researchers are evaluating this new polymer for eventual use in the healthcare industry. The project's lead researcher Professor Wayne Hayes says this new material could extend the durability of bandages, reducing the potential to "damage healing skin" caused by frequently changing out the dressing. Or, adds Hayes, if engineered to gradually dissolve, it could also be used as stitches for surgical wounds.

The polymer's even being touted as a boon for self-healing paints, which would help eliminate the appearance of scrapes and scratches on your car or even smartphone. No word on whether it'll prevent your iPhone screen from cracking, though.

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