Self-Healing Coating Inspired by Skin

A research team based out of the Harbin Institute of Technology (Harbin, China) led by researcher Ming Yang, has designed a self-healing coating that is reminiscent of the human epidermis, but with the strength of tooth enamel, which holds promise for both building coatings and biomedical equipment.

The coating can help prevent scratches in a more dynamic fashion than traditional alternatives.

Self-Healing Coating

The paper, published in ACS Nano, details that while this is not the first smart coating to hit the market, there is still a need for better self-healing materials.

According to Yang, current self-healing materials and coatings are often soft and wear out quickly, resulting in issues with the management of the plastic waste. The research team’s new design could help address these concerns, however, by combining the flexibility of a soft coating with the resilience of a hard coating.

The trick is using “artificial materials in nature’s way,” noted Yang, with the multilayered structure acting as the key.

“By placing a hard layer containing graphene oxide on top of a soft layer, we create a smart hybridization you can get the most out of,” the researcher told Inverse.

The coating’s top layer is similar in toughness to tooth enamel, and yet the hard and soft layers are able to work in conjunction to create healing properties. Yang added that “this design principle is likely useful for any self-healing polymer system.”

The coating shows promise in being able to protect both phone screens and buildings alike, and its bacteria-killing properties can also make it useful in the creation of biomedical devices.

Moving forward, the coating manufacturing process will need to be made more efficient if it’s to go from lab to market.

“Spray-assisted coating can be a good choice,” Yang said. “We are also trying to apply a similar design principle to other self-healing polymers, especially those are already commercially available.”

Yang predicted that a prototype could be ready in two years, with something more final launched in five years or more.

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Paint Square, Self-Healing Coating Inspired by Skin, date of access: 6 February 2018,