Self-Healing Circuits From Carnegie Mellon

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have created a self-healing material that spontaneously repairs itself under extreme mechanical damage.


(Carnegie Mellon University College of Engineering)

This soft-matter composite material is composed of liquid metal droplets suspended in a soft elastomer. When damaged, the droplets rupture to form new connections with neighboring droplets and reroute electrical signals without interruption. Circuits produced with conductive traces of this material remain fully and continuously operational when severed, punctured, or had material removed.

“Other research in soft electronics has resulted in materials that are elastic and deformable, but still vulnerable to mechanical damage that causes immediate electrical failure,” said Carmel Majidi, an associate professor of mechanical engineering. “The unprecedented level of functionality of our self-healing material can enable soft-matter electronics and machines to exhibit the extraordinary resilience of soft biological tissue and organisms.”

Applications for its use include bio-inspired robotics, human-machine interaction, and wearable computing. Because the material also exhibits high electrical conductivity that does not change when stretched, it is ideal for use in power and data transmission. Think of a first responder robot that can rescue humans during an emergency without sustaining damage, a health-monitoring device on an athlete during rigorous training, or an inflatable structure that can withstand environmental extremes on Mars.

Science fiction authors initiated the idea of self-healing materials long ago. For example, consider the self-healing houses from brilliant writer JG Ballard's 1962 story The Thousand Dreams of Stellavista.

Even better, the self-healing plastic from Golden Age great Raymond Z. Gallun's 1951 short story Asteroid of Fear, which was perfect for asteroid greenhouses:

But the wide roof was all the way up, now—intact. It made a great, squarish bubble, the skin of which [a 'transparent, wire-strengthened plastic '] was specially treated to stop the hard and dangerous part of the ultra-violet rays of the sun, and also the lethal portion of the cosmic rays. It even had an inter-skin layer of gum that could seal the punctures that grain-of-sand-sized meteors might make.

Heal your own knowledge gap about these unique materials:

Via Carnegie Mellon.

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