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Top Story

A breakthrough in self-healing materials

The cost of making plastics, paints and coatings for cellphone screens and other materials that heal themselves like skin could be dramatically reduced thanks to a recent scientific discovery. Researchers were able to give self-healing qualities to polymers that are used in relatively inexpensive commodities, such as paints, plastics and coatings. Scientists have been making small batches of self-healing polymers for the last two decades, but producing them on a commercial scale has so far been largely cost prohibitive. The research team in this study took advantage of interactions between co-polymers that the researchers likened to spaghetti strands with little brushes on the sides. The longer the spaghetti strands get, the more they become entangled; the side groups interlock like two interlaced hands, according to one researcher. This discovery is significant because a company could bring the technology to market without having to build a new factory to produce self-healing polymers. The researchers estimated that increasing the scale to make polymers or paints by the hundreds of gallons could be done in six to 12 months.

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