Bio-based Polymers Heal Themselves

Monday - 1/17/2011, 12:17pm EST

An Iowa State University associate professor and associate of the Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory has been working with polymers that repair themselves when they crack. He's worked with polymers made from vegetable oils. Now - he's working to combine the two technologies.

Michael Kessler is researching and developing biorenewable polymers that are capable of healing themselves as they degrade and crack.

He says - if successful, the research will provide biorenewable alternatives to petroleum-based resins, which he says could have a huge economic and environmental impacts.

The technology has evolved into a system that embeds catalysts and microcapsules containing a liquid healing agent inside the polymer. As cracks develop, they rupture the microcapsules and release the healing agent.