Case researchers developing self-healing polymers

CINCINNATI — Researchers at Case Western Reserve University have developed materials that can heal themselves.

A team, led by Case Western professor Stuart Rowan, is working on structurally dynamic polymers that respond to stimuli like ultraviolet light.

Rowan also is director of the university's Institute for Advanced Materials.

The adaptive polymer systems rely on reversible chemistry to prompt a response at the molecular level. The materials are called metallo-supramolecular polymers or MSPs and are made by essentially binding metal ions and polymers.

The film material acts like a normal polymer until it's exposed to ultraviolet light (no more intense than the lamps dentists use when filling teeth). When exposed to light, the polymer system absorbs heat locally. This heats up a reversible bond and the result is essentially a decomplexation and reorganization of the system, explained Rowan, in a presentation at Antec 2013 in Cincinnati.

In simpler terms: you can shine a light on a scratched film and the scratch disappears, like it was never there in the first place.

By Jessica Holbrook
STAFF REPORTER

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