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News Release 11-083

Imagine: Material That If Scratched, You Can Quickly and Easily Fix Yourself, With Light Not Heat

Discovery of self-corrective healing process for polymer detailed this week in the journal Nature

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Illustration showing optically healing polymers.

Schematic of optically healing polymers. The specially designed polymer molecules that make up the solid item can be disassembled by the UV light so that they flow and fill in the cracks. When the light is turned off, the molecules reassemble themselves and the filled cracks become rigid again.

Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation, after Burnworth et al., Nature, April 21, 2011

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Illustration of headphones with the words Audio Only.

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Audio transcript from April 19, 2011 Tele-press conference announcing the discovery of polymers that may be healed using light as opposed to heat, featuring: Andrew Lovinger, polymer program director in the Division of Materials Research at the National Science Foundation; Christoph Weder, director and chair of Polymer Chemistry and Materials at the Adolphe Merkle Institute at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland and Lisa-Joy Zgorski, also of the National Science Foundation.

Credit: NSF


a Volkswagen Beetle repaired with the self-healing polymer.

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University say fixing scratches on cars and furniture may be cheap and easy to do yourself in the not-too-distant future. Together with partners in the USA and Switzerland, they have developed a polymer-based material that can heal itself when placed under ultraviolet light for less than a minute. View a video about the self-healing polymer that fixes scratches.

Credit: Case Western University