What must be one of the most coveted supernatural powers of Wolverine is his ability to self-heal. It inspired scientists at the University of California to create a Wolverine-like material that is transparent, stretchable and self-healing capable with various potential applications for robots, biosensors and more.
A material having these properties has long been a puzzle for scientists to create because of the many incompatibilities of chemical bonds. But as long as one has the idea, a way to achieve it can eventually be paved through sheer hard work.
Creation of a Wonder Material
Scientists have discovered how to create the Wolverine-like material through a mechanism called ion-dipole interactions. Previously, making this kind of material is next to impossible to since it is hard to identify stable and reversible bonds when they are undergoing electrochemical conditions.
However, Chao Wang, a chemistry assistant professor, discovered how to operate the ion-dipole interactions that remain stable in the said condition. This was created through combining a polar, stretchable polymer with high-ionic-strength salt.
The study published in the journal Advanced Material shows a breakthrough for creating, for the first time, the ionic conductor. This means the material that is transparent and stretchable can also let ions flow through.
Wang was inspired by his lifelong love for the comic book character Wolverine’s ability to self-heal. With that, the material he created that is highly stretchable – up to 50 times its original length – can re-attach to itself after being cut within 24 hours at room temperature.
Wolverine-like Material’s Many Uses
After making the material, Wang says what they are doing now is to “explore the applications.” The material has, in fact, a wide scope of applications.
For one, its self-healing ability would highly be useful for robots if ever the machine experiences a mechanical failure. Another use of the material is for extending the life of lithium ion batteries. This is useful for powering up electric cars and electronic devices such as smartphones for a longer period of time.
The material could also be used in the medical field and monitoring of the environment. They can improve biological sensors, or more commonly known as biosensors, that are analytical devices to convert a biological response into an electrical signal.
With further studies, the mechanism can be used to mimic the dominant survival feature which is wound-healing. Two students under Christoph Keplinger, co-author of the study, shows a demonstration where the material can be used to power up artificial muscles.
The Wolverine-like material did not disappoint as it, indeed, healed on its own without the help of external stimuli. This opens up a fascinating finding in the future of self-healing properties.