MIT Engineers are working to create a new polymer that can grow with carbon dioxide in the air and also repair itself. The material which is a synthetic gel-like substance converts the gas into a carbon-based material. The self-healing element has been designed by a team of chemical engineers and claims that the material can be used as protective coatings.
The chemical process used to make it is similar to the way plants use carbon dioxide from the air for their growing tissues. They use sunlight for energy and air exposure to expand in size. If required, the material can be made into a lightweight matrix which can be taken to a construction site.
The research and finding are described in the journal Advanced Materials, by Professor Michael Strano, postdoc Seon-Yeong Kwak, and eight others at MIT and at the University of California at Riverside.
Strano, the Carbon C. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering said, "This is a completely new concept in materials science. Imagine a synthetic material that could grow like trees, taking the carbon from the carbon dioxide and incorporating it into the material’s backbone."
With this commercial application, coatings and crack filling will become easier. While earlier there were efforts to develop self-healing materials with the ability of biological organisms, they have all required an outside input to function. While the new material thrives on carbon dioxide from the air.
The research team included Juan Pablo Giraldo at UC Riverside, and Tedrick Lew, Min Hao Wong, Pingwei Liu, Yun Jung Yang, Volodomyr Koman, Melissa McGee and Bradley Olsen at MIT. Their work was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy.