Research Highlights

Nature 462, 393 (26 November 2009) | doi:10.1038/462393c; Published online 25 November 2009

Materials: Healed steel

Materials: Healed steel


Adv. Mater. doi:10.1002/adma.200902465 (2009)

A polymer coating can enable damaged steel to 'heal' itself, according to Jeong-Ho Park and Paul Braun of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The coating consists of a mat of thin fibres spun using a technique called electrospinning, which creates fibres from a liquid by pulling it through an electric field. Trapped inside pockets along the fibres are bubbles of one or another of two liquid polysiloxane-based healing agents.

When these fibres are electrospun onto a steel surface and that steel surface is cut, the two liquids burst out (pictured) and mix together in the crack formed during damage. The liquids then polymerize and fill in the gap with a solid substance. In the team's experiments, the healed steel didn't rust for three months, even after initially sitting in salt water for five days.

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