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Case Western researchers develop self-healing polymer

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University have invented a polymer coating that can repair itself. Stuart Rowan, CWRU professor of macromolecular science and engineering, along with his team and researchers from the University of Fribourg in Switzerland and the Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, has spent the last three years developing a rubber-like protective coating that heals itself when an ultraviolet light is shined on it for just a few seconds.

"The idea was to develop a coating that, if it was damaged in any way, we could repair just by shining a light on it," says Rowan. "A lot of my research is creating stimulating response materials."

The science behind the technology involves taking a long chain of polymers and reducing it to small chains. When the UV light -- much like the light used in dentist offices -- shines on them, the polymers become temporarily unglued. They reassemble when the light is shut off, thus repairing the scratches.

"It works perfectly for coating penetrations," says Rowan.

The scientists envision that self-healing polymers like theirs could be used in automotive paints, varnishes for floors and furniture, and many other applications. "The material could be used in potentially any paint or coating use," says Rowan.

Their findings were published in the April 21 issue of the journal Nature.

The team is currently in talks with companies to see if there is an interest in commercializing the material.

Source: Stuart Rowan, Case Western Reserve University
Writer: Karen Connelly

This story originally appeared in hiVelocity's sister publication, Fresh Water Cleveland.
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