Researchers were inspired by Wolverine to create self-healing material which may help the development of better robots. The famous character from X-Men series who had incredible regenerating abilities inspired men of science. Scientists at the University of California-Riverside decided to create this revolutionary material meant to help robots self-heal after a component was damaged.
The new study was recently published in the Advanced Materials magazine. The transparent and soft material which mainly looks as if it was made out of rubber is highly extendable. The self-healing material has the ability to repair itself immediately after cutting. The new product could be electrically coordinated to fuel artificial muscles.
What is more, researchers have also pointed out that the innovative material might as well be used to improve the development of batteries or electronic devices. After you cut into this fabric, it has the ability to completely heal within 24 hours. Scientists claim that the material can be stretched twice its length after only five minutes of healing.
After completely healing, the material can be pulled at about fifty times its length without being damaged. The self-healing ability lies in the mechanism known as ion-dipole interactions. This experiment represents the first time when experts managed to develop ionic conductors. The co-author of the research, Cha Wang, stated that these represent materials which can transport electricity through the ions’ flow, having self-healing properties.
Previous studies have proven that scientists were able to produce stretchable and transparent ionic conductors a long time ago. The most difficult part was to develop self-healing properties for their product. This required the development of non-covalent connections between molecules which do not use the same electronics. What is more, non-covalent interactions are damaged when electricity passes through them.
Chao Wang together with his co-workers was able to surpass the problem by implementing the use of ion-dipole interactions bound to keep the molecules together. It mixed polar molecules, which are very stable under electrochemical conditions, with charged ions. A small asymmetry present in molecules may trigger an electrostatic bond between them, outfitting the material with self-healing properties.
The artificial muscles of the material are prone to react whenever they receive a signal, just like our muscles respond when our brain transmits a signal.
Image courtesy of: flickr