The release of the 3G Iphone last week (which
featured GPS function and encouraged 3rd
party application development) and the first prominent commercial
installation of the Microsoft Surface
table at Rio’s in Las Vegas signals a shift in the way we are going
to interact in public spaces. It also marks the beginning of a
dramatic increase in device and location driven 3rd party
application development. Take a look at the Surface promo video
below (warning – it’s a little cheesy).
Researchers at the University of Illinois are working on developing a synthetic polymer which would hopefully self-heal scratches and cracks on items that get constant human and environmental exposure. "Applications range from automotive paints and marine varnishes to the thick, rubbery coatings on patio furniture and park benches." In other words, when someone dings your car door it can be good as new in just a few minutes or hours depending on the weather.
How does it work?
The self healing polymers are made up of two components: a catalyst and a healing agent. These chemicals are stuffed into small spheres about 100 microns in diameter and put onto the surface of an object. When scratched, the small spheres break open and mix, forming a healing agent that repair the surface. In tests with a steel beam where a scratch was delivered by a razor blade, the steel coated with the polymer was found to be fine while the one without rusted.
Self-healing products of course have a vast array of possibilities that are useful. Anything metal rusts, wood gets scratched or chipped, and hard drives can rack up some serious wear and tear if you're not careful. Self-healing coatings on products could extend the life of your goods for years longer than they should have lived. Combined with a superhydrophobic surface, our gadgets will look years from now just as good as the day you bought them.