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New Regenerating Plastic Material Regrows After Being Damaged (VIDEO)

First Posted: May 09, 2014 06:32 AM EDT

Scientists have created a revolutionary, self-healing material. They've managed to construct plastic that not only heals, but regenerates when it's damaged.

Until now, self-repairing materials could only bond tiny microscopic cracks. Now, though, researchers have managed to create a new material that can fill in large cracks and holes by regrowing material.

 "We have demonstrated repair of a nonliving, synthetic materials system in a way that is reminiscent of repair-by-regrowth as seen in some living systems," said Jeffry Moore, one of the researchers, in a news release.

Scientists have long been searching for a way to create self-repairing materials. These materials would be useful not only for commercial goods, but also for parts and products that are difficult to replace or repair, such as those used in aerospace applications. In this case, the researchers used two, adjoining, parallel capillaries filled with regenerative chemicals that flow out when damage occurs. The two liquids mix to form a gel, which spans the gap caused by the damage.

"We have to battle a lot of extrinsic factors for generation, including gravity," said Scott White, one of the researchers, in a news release. "The reactive liquids we use form a gel fairly quickly, so that as it's released it starts to harden immediately. If it didn't, the liquids would just pour out of the damaged area and you'd essentially bleed out. Because it forms a gel, it supports and retains fluids. Since it's not a structural material yet, we can continue the regrowth process by pumping more fluid into the hole."

The new findings could be huge in terms of creating commercial plastics and polymers. That said, the scientists still have a ways to go before this technique is used on the market. Even so, being able to regrow materials may be a huge boon in the future.

The findings are published in the journal Science.

Want to see for yourself? Check out the video below, courtesy of YouTube.

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