Documenting the Coming Singularity

Saturday, December 13, 2008

First Self-Healing Coatings

Technology Review - December 12, 2008, by Katherine Bourzac
(Photo Credit: Paul Braun)

A paint additive will protect cars, bridges, and ships from corrosion.

When a car's underbody or a ship's hull begins to corrode, it usually ends up junked. New protective coatings developed at the University of Illinois heal over their own scratches with no external intervention, protecting the underlying metal. The self-healing elements, enclosed in microcapsules that rip open when the coating is scratched, are compatible with a wide range of paints and protective coatings. The coatings, being marketed by Autonomic Materials of Champaign, IL, may be on the market in as soon as four months.

The materials, described online this week in the journal Advanced Materials, were developed by Paul Braun and Scott White, both professors in the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The self-healing system consists of two kinds of microcapsules: one filled with polymer building blocks, the other with a catalyst. Because the capsules, made of polyurethane, keep the reactive chemicals inside isolated, they can be mixed into a wide range of coatings. When the coatings are scratched, the microcapsules are torn open and their contents flow into the crack and form siloxane, a polymer that Braun likens to bathroom caulk. Unlike other self-healing systems, the Illinois coatings don't require elevated temperatures or moisture to mend.

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