Scott White from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been working on something quite incredible: a plastic that is lined with something similar to an artificial vascular system, just like the veins and arteries that see the blood flow through your body, that can repair for larger breaks.
This new system features two different liquids, with the first containing long, thin molecules, and the other with three-sided molecules, in separate channels. Once these fluids mix, a reaction sees them joining together to create a scaffold, which forms a thick gel. Mixing in some other ingredients causes the gel to solidify over a few hours.
Once the plastic is fractured, the vascular system is damaged, with the two liquids pouring out. The liquids mix together, forming a restorative gel. This gel can fill a 4mm hole with 35mm of surrounding cracks within 20 minutes, hardening in a 3-hour span of time. The patch that is created is around 60% as strong as the original plastic, so we're not talking about a complete 100% strength, but this is an incredible feat nonetheless.
The researchers working on this new liquid have said that it is possible to create giant sheets of plastic with cross-crossing channels, which would see entire structures capable of recording from damage. One of the researchers, Jeff Moore, explained to New Scientist: "You pay the price for being able to repair this damage, but it is certainly one that nature has figured out how to tolerate. If you just look to things like bone or trees, they are all vascularised".