University of Illinois Research Team Creates Self-Regenerating Plastic

| by Will Hagle

A research team at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana is one of many groups throughout the world investigating the technology of self-regenerating plastics. This particular team, under the leadership of aerospace engineering professor Scott White, has achieved a breakthrough in its research, developing a combination of plastic materials that can regenerate over large gaps and holes in a matter of seconds.

This breakthrough distinguishes itself from similar advances in research, in which teams have created plastics that can regenerate over small cuts and fractures. 

Jeffrey Moore, a chemistry professor at the university who worked on the research project, explained that the plastic materials regenerate in a way similar to the way the bodies of humans and other animals heal themselves.

“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 Moore, according to The Blaze. 

The team tested the plastic by firing a 9 mm bullet at it, and the plastic was able to grow back following the damage. 

According to CNET, this technology could be used in a variety of instances, such as in the creation of a self-healing car bumper or for repairs in space. 

The technology works by circulating liquid materials throughout the plastic that perform various tasks. After damage occurs, the chemicals flow into the holes and gaps and coagulate in the open air, forming into a gel that hardens into a polymer. 

“For the first time, we’ve shown that you can regenerate lost material in a structural polymer. That’s the kicker here,” said Professor White, according to the University of Illinois' website, “Prior to this work, if you cut off a piece of material, it’s gone. Now we’ve shown that the material can actually regrow.”

You can view a video which explains the research below.