PerspectiveMaterials Science

An Internal Cure for Damaged Polymers

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Science  09 May 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6184, pp. 591-592
DOI: 10.1126/science.1254317

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Design strategies for structural polymers and polymer matrix composites that opt for damage management in lieu of damage prevention may greatly improve materials longevity and reduce repair costs. Nature has evolved many elegant examples of self-healing. Bone continuously remodels via the resorption and replacement of damaged tissue, latex “gasket” excretion in plants self-seals wounds (1), and dynamic, sacrificial metal-loprotein complexes form the adhesive of the mussel byssus (2). Scientists have drawn inspiration from nature to develop self-healing strategies in structural polymeric systems. On page 620 of this issue, White et al. (3) show how to heal a large volumetric loss in a synthetic polymer autonomously. Their innovative approach enables restoration of mechanical integrity to a damage volume that is roughly 100 times the largest defect previously healed in this manner (4).