Imagine James Bond upcoming movie trailer starts with showing off his smart phone that can heal itself and his car after being scratched can recover on its own and his high-fi sunglasses that can heal the scar on the glasses like a charm. Sci-fi eh! But what if I tell you that you can also have these gadgets and accessories that have human like self healing capabilities?
Dutch researchers from the Eindhoven University of Technology have invented a coating technique that heals itself when scratched. This property is achieved by applying a thin layer of nanoscopic material popularly known as Superhydrophobic coating. Basically, these coatings were innovated to achieve water resistant capabilities.
Water resistant!! But it was supposed to be self healing..!
Nothing drives our curiosity like half reveal secrets isn’t it! Let me briefly take you through the evolution of it. Recent discoveries have linked the mechanism of self cleaning of a lotus plant to microscopic morphology leading to superhydrophobic surfaces. This innovation has sparked the interest of several researchers to develop a biometric approach to attain new wonders and then human self-healing capabilities became the driving inspiration to come up with the self healing coatings. The very use of these protective coatings over various substrates is based upon natural systems like animal skins, cell membranes, muscle etc. that protect its underlying substrate.
From smudge free glasses to the antibacterial coatings on clothes, and from corrosion proof coatings on cars to the oleophobic coating on the iPhone 5, coatings have become important part of our daily life. But due to its high expenditure, a very thin layer of coating is normally applied and as a result the first deep scratch will make the coating useless. Hence the researchers came up with self healing coatings.
Impatient already to know how?
Interestingly, the sciencey part behind this self-healing coating is fairly tricky, but here’s the basic gist. There are some micro-capsules that encapsulate the healing chemical in itself and are applied on the surface which on rupturing will spill out the chemical. The coating formulation is separated into three layers including
- Topmost layer that is water resisting.
- A middle layer of polymer “stalks,”
- And a lower layer reservoir of micro-capsules containing self-healing chemical.
When the top layer is scratched, the micro-capsules starts rupturing upon the scratched cavity and oozes out the mending chemical, this starts spreading in the damaged area, thus returning the water resistant coating to its former glory. Below shown is the figure demonstrating the self healing phenomena for preventing corrosion.
We can now think of its wide scope in our daily life. Recently LG announced its smart phone (G-flex) which claims to have the self healing capability. Popular screen guard companies have come up with scratch healing screen protectors and many other similar kinds of new applications are continuing its evolution with this technology. It might be expensive, but spending a few more dollars on iPhones and Laptops and many other gadgets to ensure its longevity is worth paying. Apart from gadgets, this self-healing coating will probably be used be on cars to avoid car-wash expenses, airplanes which will have less air resistance, ships for less water résistance, and possibly plastic products, for example self-healing contact lenses.
Technology has started to impart the human capabilities to the devices and objects. From touch sensing to self healing, objects have it all. Days are not far when technology will exceed the human capabilities.