Repair and maintenance is absolutely vital for everything ever made. Sometimes, it is not that easy as the things requiring repair are present at the most peculiar of places. For example, underwater cables or medical implants like the pacemaker. Installing them is difficult in itself but if something happens to them and such things require maintenance, it becomes a proper headache to get to them, let alone repair them.
Now imagine if these things at almost unreachable places could mend themselves if severed or damaged. That would make our lives a lot easier, wouldn’t it? Well, looks like the scientists of Pennsylvania State University have developed just the thing. They have created a moldable polymer that has the ability to “heal” itself on exposure to water. As crazy as it may sound, the idea of this polymer was derived from the squid’s sucker ring teeth.
On observation of the sucker ring teeth collected from squids all over the world, the team of researchers led by Prof. Melik Demirel observed that the composition of teeth varied from specie to specie but the proteins that imparted the self-healing properties were present in all of them, albeit in small quantities.
The required proteins were present only in a small amount in the animals meaning that quite a lot of squids would have to be processed in order to obtain the required quantities. To avoid this, the scientists developed a polymer based on the same proteins, by using bacteria to make more usable protein.
The resulting copolymer consisted of two parts – structured strands of amino acids held by hydrogen bonds and the self-healing amorphous part. In the lab, the polymer was cut in two and it rejoined when exposed to warm water and a little pressure. Weight hanging proved that the healed polymer was just as strong as the original one.
“It would be interesting in the long run to see if we could promote wound healing this way so that is where I’m going to focus now,” says Prof. Demirel. It would be really interesting to see if this dream can become a reality in the near future.
The following video demonstrates the working of the bio-plastic.