Prof. Scott R. White
Aerospace Engineering at Illinois Prof. Scott R. White joined other world renowned scientists in a documentary feature of self-healing materials’ origins and their future directions during a segment of BBC Radio’s Frontiers Program
In “Self-Healing Materials,” first aired in late November, host Quentin Cooper took listeners on a journey from the naturally self-healing materials used in ancient Rome to the not-so-distant notion of materials capable of rebuilding themselves.
White was introduced as having published the 2001 Nature magazine paper describing the first successful efforts to produce autonomically self-healing materials – that is, materials that heal without human intervention. White’s group pioneered the concept of using an encapsulated healing agent in polymer composites. Once a crack forms in the material, the microcapsules are triggered to rupture and release liquid chemicals to fill and repair the crack.
Later in the program, White, who directs the Autonomous Materials Systems (AMS) Group at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology and is Chairman of Autonomic Materials, Inc. (AMI), recalled the group’s second major advancement, microvascular healing. Again inspired by biology, the group developed circulatory networks within materials, so that healing agents are replenished for multiple self-healing cycles.
White concluded with his group’s latest investigation: whether materials could be made to mimic non-vertebrate species capable of complete regeneration of body parts when faced with catastrophic wounds.
“To do that requires much more sophisticated vascular network and chemistry, but this is our current interest now,” White said. “We’re looking at not only healing, but regenerating entire structural materials.”