Several trends have emerged in the self-healing materials market since n-tech published its latest report on self-healing materials, “Markets for Self-healing Materials 2017-2024.” We have identified three important self-healing materials trends, (1) the growing role of biomaterials and biomimetics in the design and creation of self-healing materials, (2) improving performance from commercial products and (3) the emergence of self-healing concrete as a real product. These are not entirely independent developments.
Biomaterials and Biomimetics Growing in Importance
n-tech believes that reversible polymers will continue to have the largest share of the self-healing market – in fact, we think reversible polymers will still account for 37 percent of the market by 2022. And we also anticipate reversible polymers will 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.
An example of where we are seeing biomimetics impact the self-healing polymer sector is provided by some interesting work done at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, which postulates self-healing polymers being developed using concepts gleaned from velvet worms shoot out a sticky secretion that hardens into strong threads which can be dissolved and then reformed again. At TNO, researchers are actually using biomaterials to fabricate thermo-reversible polymer networks composed of bio-based diethyl itaconate.