Self-Healing UV-Sensitive Material May Soon Coat Your Devices

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Minor scratches to things like flooring, gadgets, and cars may soon be a thing of the past, if… wait, no, that lede is a little too PopSci. Let’s try again.

Researchers have come up with a new material that acts like a normal polymer coating under most circumstances, but when exposed to UV light, spontaneously heals nicks and scratches. Here comes the science!

Basically, the material (made of “metallo-supramolecular polymers”) isn’t actually polymeric, but acts like it; instead of long strands of molecules, there are lots of shorter ones, and in most cases they act the same. But the researchers made these sub-polymers sensitive to UV light, essentially “melting” when exposed to it.

When the material melts, it naturally fills in any areas that have been roughed up or scratched, as you can see in the video above. Looks pretty real to me.

Unfortunately, not every coating is right for every situation. This particular one may be too easily disrupted (by heat or friction) to use on, say, your iPhone, and may be too unstable in sunlight to use on cars. But it’s too cool not to use somewhere, so that’s the next problem these guys will have to solve.

The research was a collaboration between Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, the University of Fribourg in Germany, and the Army Research Laboratory.

[via Eurekalert]