For years, scientists have been working to develop artificial skin for wounded patients and bio-medical research. Now a team from the University of Southern Mississippi has taken the effort one step further by creating a new type of plastic that not only ‘bleeds’ when damaged, but repairs itself just like human skin.
In the past, artifical skin has been developed using capusles that break open when damaged and release repairing compounds that react with outside stimuli to ‘heal’. However the Mississipi team is now using the same type of plastic that is used in automobile fenders that can be repaired by exposing the damanged area to light. The same type of technology is also used in aircraft to detect structual weaknesses.
“Mother Nature has endowed all kinds of biological systems with the ability to repair themselves,” says Professor Marek W Urban of the University of Southern Mississippi. ”Our new plastic tries to mimic nature, issuing a red signal when damaged and then renewing itself when exposed to visible light, temperature or pH changes.”
So it’s not really blood, but a red color change that is easy to spot if the skin is damaged. Urban’s plastics utilise small molecular links or ‘bridges’ that span the long chains of chemicals from which plastics are made.These chains break and change shape when the plastic is scratched or cracked producing the ‘red color effect’.
While other plastic skins heal in the sunlight, the team’s new skin is able to constantly heal itself, much like real skin. Unsurprisingly, the research is being funded by the Department of Defence so that the technology can benefit wounded troops. The team is now working on being able to incorporate the plastic skin into plastics that can withstand high temperatures.
The research was presented at a meeting for the American Chemical Society.
via TG Daily