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Skin-Like Plastic Repairs Itself

Aired 3/27/12 on KPBS News.

A new type of plastic "bleeds" when it's cut, then repairs itself just like human skin.

— A new type of plastic "bleeds" when it's cut, then repairs itself just like human skin.

The “self-healing plastic" was revealed to thousands of scientists from around the world at the American Chemical Society expo in San Diego on Monday.

The new genre of plastic is said to mimic the human skin's ability to detect a scratch or cut, by turning red when damaged.

New plastic turns red when damaged, then repairs itself when exposed to light.

Above: New plastic turns red when damaged, then repairs itself when exposed to light.

Then, when exposed to sunlight, a group of chemicals inside the plastic repairs the damage.

Marek Urban and his research team at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg developed the self-monitoring plastic.

“This material was designed with certain chemical groups that are sensitive to sunlight, so if you make a scratch these chemical groups turn red and at the same time the scratch is self-healed by simple exposure to sunlight,” said Urban.

Urban said the "plastic skin" has a wide range of potential uses on cell phones, lap scars, battlefield armor and weapons, but that it won’t be ready for market for a few more years.

Funding from the U.S. Department of Defense helped to fund research on the plastic skin.

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