The most important trends for self-healing materials
The three trends that N-Tech is seeing as most notable in the smart materials space are the growing role of biomaterials and biomimetics in the design and creation of self-healing materials, improving performance from commercial products and the emergence of self-healing concrete as a real product. These are not entirely independent developments.
Self-healing trend 1: Biomaterials and biomimetics growing in importance
N-tech believes that reversible polymers will continue to have the largest share of the self-healing market with 37 % of the market by 2022. Also, reversible polymers will probably grow in terms of types and self-healing mechanisms. For example, a team at Harvard has recently patented a new kind of self-healing rubber. Rather than cracking when a lot of force is applied, this material will return to its original form when the stress is released.
N-tech also sees an important meta-trend towards the use of biomaterials and biomimetics that will not only shape polymer-based self-healing materials, but will impact self-healing materials across the entire spectrum of materials and self-healing mechanism.
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Self-healing trend 2: Performance is more in sync with applications needs
Another meta-trend worth noting is that the performance of self-healing materials is getting better. More specifically, self-healing materials are increasingly in sync with real world applications needs, although as n-tech sees things they still have way to go in this regard:
The automotive sector already uses self-healing aftermarket coatings but has begun to sample much higher performing self-healing materials that can comply with the industry’s demanding coatings requirements. The rapidly growing use of relatively fragile composites in the automotive sector is a strong driver for the development of self-healing composites. And we are seeing a transition from user applied low-performance self-healing coatings to professionally applied higher-performing self-healing coatings, such as FeynLab Heal Plus.
Self-healing trend 3: The rise of self-healing concrete
N-tech believes that self-healing concrete may turn out to be – in a sense – the killer app for self-healing technology. First, it is relatively easy to build a case for self-healing concrete, when one considers the vast amounts of money that is spent of repairing concrete. Self-healing concrete would also prevent sending engineers into precarious situations on bridges, roads and skyscrapers to search for cracks. And if next-generation self-healing concrete turn out to be a success it should do much to enhance recognition of self-healing technology as a whole and give it a much-needed boost.
Although self-healing concrete is only at an early stage of development, it is well suited to current self-healing technology, because fixing the smallest cracks is what is needed here. Typically, the construction industry believes that the smallest cracks can lead to the biggest problems in the long run – and it is typical for small cracks to form in concrete after just three years.
This article is based on a more detailed report of Lawrence Gasman of N-tech Research in European Coatings Journal 7+8/2018. The article is also available digital in European Coatings 360° for subscribers of the digital service. A trial subscription is free of charge.