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
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.