NASA's Langley Research Center is developing an innovative self-healing resin that automatically reacts to mechanical stimuli. Current structural materials are not self-healing, making it necessary to depend on complicated and potentially destructive repair methods and long down times. Unlike other proposed self-healing materials that use microencapsulated healing agents, this technology utilizes viscoelastic properties from inherent structure properties. The resulting technology is a self-healing material with rapid rates of healing and a wide range of use temperatures.
The method chemically introduces mechanically sensitive chemical groups into the structure of a resin. By introducing mechanoresponsive functional groups to a polymer, it is possible to induce self-healing through the transformation of such chemical groups to a point at which the mechanical properties of a structure are almost completely restored. The forces imparted by a damage event can therefore be used to enable healing or repair of the structure.
The technology has healing capability at elevated temperatures, fast healing rates of less than 100 microseconds, and healing without the need of foreign inserts or fillers (via structural chemistry). Potential applications include aircraft, rotorcraft, and spacecraft.