Everyone gets fascinated with the healing ability of legendary character Wolverine of X-Men. Taking the inspiration from the mutant, researchers have developed a material that is stretchable and has self-healing ability. The transparent material is like a soft rubber sheet that can stretch up to 50 times of its original length and scientists say that the material can self-heal the cut due to scissor withing 24 hours at room temperature.
Lead study author Chao Wang from the University of California said that they have just started to explore the applications of the material and have found a wide range of field where it can be used including self-healing robots after mechanical failure, extend the lifetime of lithium ion batteries used in electronics and electric cars, and it can also aid in medical field by improving the sensors.
The study takes advantage of ionic conductors and transparent stretchable materials. Wang had childhood affection towards Wolverine so he planned to make such a self-healing device. His another colleague named Christopher Keplinger who is an assistant professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, had previously shown how we can power artificial muscles using ionic conductors and create transparent speakers. However, these devices did not have self-healing ability.
To inject self-healing property in a material, researchers needed to ensure a very stable bond that is reversible under electrochemical conditions. Previous studies have shown that we can create self-healing polymers using covalent bond. However, against the conventional method, the new study uses ionic bonds which perform way better and are not affected by electrochemical reactions that degrade the performance of the materials.
Wang used a mechanism called ion-dipole interactions to make a highly stable bond under electrochemical conditions. He then fused the two — transparent stretchable polymer and self-healing ionic bond to create the self-healing material.
Researchers found that the material is highly stretchable that can elongate up to 50 times of its original size. Once cut from a knife, it can restore completely withing 24 hours. In addition, it can be stretched up to two times of original size just after five minutes of healing.
In a previous study, researchers have shown that they can use stretchable, transparent, iconic conductors to power artificial muscles and create loudspeakers. However, those devices did not have the self-healing ability. However, the new study has shown the way to make them self-healing.
Using electrical signals, researchers moved artificial muscles. Scientists believe that they can use the technology to give artificial limb to physically handicapped person. The study appeared in the journal Advanced Material.