A drop of water self-heals a multiphase polymer derived from the genetic code of squid ring teeth, which may someday extend the life of medical implants, fiber-optic cables and other hard to repair in place objects, according to an international team of researchers.
“What’s unique about this plastic is the ability to stick itself back together with a drop of water,” said Melik Demirel, professor of engineering science and mechanics, Penn State. “There are other materials that are self healing, but not with water.”
Demirel and his team looked at the ring teeth of squid collected around the world — in the Mediterranean, Atlantic, near Hawaii, Argentina and the Sea of Japan — and found that proteins with self-healing properties are ubiquitous. However, as they note in a recent issue of Scientific Reports, “the yield of this proteinaceous material from natural sources is low (about 1 gram of squid ring teeth protein from 5 kilograms of squid) and the composition of native material varies between squid species.”
So as not to deplete squid populations, and to have a uniform material, the researchers used biotechnology to create the proteins in bacteria. The polymer can then either be molded using heat or cast by solvent evaporation.
Read more: Water heals a bioplastic