Remember those countless shots in Hollywood’s most famous sci-fi flicks when the cyborg from the future is shot and the skin just patches right back up as if they were not even scratched? Well, the technology used for that might not yet be on offer, but it seems that the direction we are heading in is surely to future which brings Hollywood alive. Do not worry way too much though as that future seems a long. Long way away and it does not involve rebellious robot factions. But the self healing property of a plastic surface seems like a technology already on its way.
Marek W. Urban from the University of Southern Mississippi has talked about a plastic that is currently in development which can already ‘bleed and regenerate’ much like the skin on animals and humans. Of course, when we say ‘bleeds’ it means the plastic can turn red the moment its structural integrity has been damaged and does so specifically at the area of damage. In more simple terms, it turns red at the place it just got scratched.
The more interesting property though is the ability to heal and patch up the scratch in course of time. While we know that skin is a living tissue and hence can regenerate, how does plastic manage to do this? There are apparently two ways to go on this. One is to seed plastic surface with capsules that break open when damage occurs and this prompts the formation of a new surface. The other is to stimulate the plastic to re-grow chemical bonds by exposing it to heat and light changes. With Urban’s design though, the additional feature of change in color when plastic’s polymer chain is broken gives it the ability to ‘bleed’.
This technology could one day lead to smartphones, tablets and even cars and aircrafts that can repair their damaged surfaces to a fair extent. But even in its present form it can be used to notice structural compromises in huge carriers like airplanes and submarines.