New Self-Healing Material Draws Inspiration From Wolverine, Attracts Worldwide Interest

A team of researchers has come up with a new and innovative form of self-healing material that, unsurprisingly, takes its inspiration from the self-healing mutant of comic books and film, Wolverine.

With the X-Men franchise scheduled to roll out the film Logan in two months, the new discovery is a particularly timely one. And it’s also grabbed the attention of many a researcher from all over the world. According to the International Business Times, the new material, which was developed by scientists from the University of California-Riverside and other institutions, has drawn a lot of interest from various parts of the globe.

UC-Riverside adjunct assistant professor of chemistry and study co-author Chao Wang was quoted as saying he has been receiving “more than 10 emails per day” from American, European, and Asian researchers, all wanting to know a little more about the new self-healing material.

Wang also admitted that he had been inspired to come up with the material because of his great interest in the comic book/movie character Wolverine (aka Logan), a mutant who has advanced healing powers and long, sharp claws as his most distinctive features. The upcoming film Logan, which will again star Hugh Jackman in the titular role, is said to be the third and final solo film where he will play the role of the self-healing mutant, the Wrap wrote in 2015.

The researchers, who also included scientists from the University of Colorado in Boulder, worked on the self-healing material with the special powers of Wolverine in mind, but they added their own unique touch to their innovation, making the material “transparent, highly stretchable, and conductive,” wrote the Press-Enterprise. This would allow the material to be used to control artificial muscles and enhance the abilities of robots, batteries, and other electronic devices.

For example, the self-healing material could be used to create robotic biceps that heal on their own, thus allowing robots to be more human-like in their motions by using a far more durable type of material. Another application example was brought up in the past by author Christoph Keplinger of the University of Colorado, Boulder, who had previously shown how stretchable and transparent ionic conductors could create transparent loudspeakers and power artificial muscles. Neither device, though, had self-healing capabilities when it came to mechanical damage.

The researchers cited ionic conductivity as one of the self-healing material’s most important features, as the material can only heal itself with the right combination of polar ions and a salty solution to bind the ions together. But with the team having included such a feature in the new material, researcher Tim Morrissey of the University of Colorado believes he and his fellow researchers have come up with the “Goldilocks combination” – one that is just right to facilitate self-healing.

Morrissey added that his team wants to run more tests on the material, specifically to see how much damage it could take without getting destroyed.

“Maybe we can prove this thing is stronger than we really thought.”

In their tests, the researchers utilized electrical signals to coax motion out of the artificial muscle. This is similar to the stimuli the brain sends to the arm in order to make arm muscles move.

Aside from their successful use of electrical signals to move the muscle, the researchers have achieved success on one very important front – the ability of their new material to self-heal like the wounds in living creatures do. The Press-Enterprise noted how the team had cut parts of the artificial muscle into two and how the self-healing material had worked “without relying on external stimuli,” with performance not getting compromised once it had healed itself.

[Featured Image by RyC – Behind the Lens/Flickr/Cropped and Resized/CC BY-SA 2.0]