Researchers from Penn State University and the Max Planck Institute have developed a self-healing, biodegradable and biosynthetic material inspired by the protein in squid ring teeth.

Mimicking features of the appendages, or teeth, on the suction cups that squids use to capture prey, which, when broken or damaged can heal themselves, the researchers have developed material that self heals via water and heat in a one-second long process.

Like squid ring teeth, which regenerate when the soft protein components of the ring teeth fuse the proteins together as the hard protein components strengthen the material, the new material is a rapidly healing polymer.

With funding from the U.S. Army, the research team believes the material could be used to repair tiny cracks and tears in material sustained by repetitive motion such as those encountered by prosthetic legs, robotic machines, ventilators, actuators, personal protective equipment (PPE) and hazmat suits. Applied to any of these, and the researchers believe tiny cracks and tears can be fixed immediately before developing into bigger holes that cause the material to fail. The U.S. Army is particularly interested in the material for its potential in future Army applications, including for PPE and for flexible robots that can adapt to and navigate confined spaces.

The research appears in the journal Nature Materials.

For more information on the material, watch the accompanying video that appears courtesy of Penn State University.

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com