Can you imagine a self-healing smart phone? You wouldn’t need to fix your screen every time it cracked. Can you imagine a self-healing wall? You wouldn’t need to repaint it every time paint was peeled off. Can you imagine a self-healing road? After heavy rain, you wouldn’t damage your car by falling into every small pothole.
You don’t need to imagine these things. They are happening right now and you will be able to tap into their benefits really soon!
Self-healing materials were in voted to be in the top 10 emerging technologies in 2013 by the World Economic Forum, and have continued to develop and improve ever since. The impact that such materials can have is huge! You probably know how many times you’ve cracked your screen, but did you know that in the “UK alone, £40-50 billion is spent each year on repair and maintenance of structures, mostly made from concrete?”. Not only would self-healing materials save a great amount of resources, but they are also a low carbon, low energy and low waste.
Leader in the self-healing material scientist is Professor, Abir Al-Tabbaa who has shared her hopes for this new technology. She explains that there are many exciting opportunities moving forwards. She provides the example of roads: using these materials roads will be able to self-sense and self-heal but also communicate with their digital twins and robotics that will repair them. We can combine them with additional functionalities: materials we embed in roads can also clean the air around the road surface, as well as capture energy and alleviate floods. Roads are at the moment passive. In the future, they won’t be!
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