Hands-on at this exhibit

  • Handle samples of self-healing polymers.
  • Virtually test different molecular designs for self-repairing materials.
  • Damage and fix large-scale models of engineering structures.


New plastics could enable car and aircraft components to fix themselves when broken.

Can materials repair themselves? Watch our exhibitors explain how new plastics could make revolutionary changes to human-made materials.

Biological materials, such as bone and skin, can regenerate after damage. But until recently such self-repair was almost unknown in man-made materials. Our exhibit shows how materials, called polymers, can be designed to contain complementary molecular surfaces that will reconnect to repair damage. Self-healing polymers could vastly improve the durability and safety of critical components in cars and aircraft.

Polymers are materials made of many repeating units connected together, and the best-known examples of polymers are plastics. When man-made polymers suffer excess mechanical or thermal stress, they become irreversibly damaged. Our research designs and develops self-repairing polymers by incorporating atoms and molecules that can re-bind after damage. The design process starts with computer simulations, then moves to experimental studies in the lab, before testing prototypes of new materials in real-world situations.

Lead image: Self-repairing materials could make cars and aircraft that heal themselves like human bone and skin.