Add plastic to the list of materials that are being enhanced with self-healing properties. Along with concrete and coating for carbon fiber applications, a new family of plastics will actually react to breakage by reforming itself. The specially developed materials are called Vitrimers, which are made by combining thermoplastics and thermosets. When damaged is sustained, the addition of heat and a chemical catalyst will allow for an automatic repairing response.
“Vitrimers are the brainchild of Ludwik Liebler, a materials scientist at the ESCPI Institute in Paris […] Liebler’s work has earned him the 2015 Inventor Award in the research category from the EPO (European Patent Office), and is expected to have a wide-ranging and transformative impact. ‘We think that the first applications will be in transport, in cars, in planes, in all the applications you have that need toughness, for repair and increasing durability of your objects,’ says Liebler, who was inspired by the shape-shifting ways of the T-1000 in ‘Terminator 2.’”
This development is expected to transcend many industries and applications, and could even help create a “new generation of products.” However, Vitrimers, like many other recently developed self-healing materials, is still in the early stages of research. How such materials will be applied to existing products and how they will perform in real-world applications is yet to be seen.