Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

Now in our 7th year of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science every day

25 August 2014

Patched-up Plastic

Skin is the largest organ of the human body, and one of its many functions is to provide a protective barrier which is able to repair itself when damaged. Scientists have recently taken inspiration from this biological system and developed a self-healing plastic. The chemical components of the plastic are held separately in a network of tiny channels which run throughout the material. When the plastic is damaged – as shown in the video – the chemicals spill out and mix together. They react in a process known as polymerisation, which causes them to harden and form a plastic patch of up to one centimetre in diameter. This process could be used to protect medical devices which are implanted in the body – such as artificial joints and pacemakers. A coating of self-healing plastic could prevent micro-fractures that these devices can incur as they degrade over time.

Written by Helen Thomas

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