Scientists at the Leibniz Institute for New Materials in Germany, alongside their colleagues from the Saarland University, have developed a “Nanomer” lacquer that has the ability to heal itself.
The scientists turned to cornstarch, out of all things, to create the lacquer, but they had good reason to. The substance has the ability to create cyclodextrins which, in turn, thread on a chain of polymer molecules. Then, cyclodextrins move along that chain but do not fall off thanks to what are called ‘stopper’ molecules.
These cyclodextrin chains with polymer molecules are then cross-linked one to the other creating a flexible, elastic polymer network that, when heated, allows the cyclodextrins to slide down the chains and fill any gaps that would result from scratches.
It initially took the scientists a few hours to heal the scratches but, after adding inorganic nanoparticles into the mix (among other ingredients), they managed to shorten that time to only one minute at a steady temperature of 100ºC (212 ºF).
For now, the researchers are working on a way to scale up production, since they have only managed to create small amount of the lacquer in their laboratory but hopefully we’ll see this material hitting the shelves soon enough.