MIT researchers have discovered a property of some metals that allows them repair and ‘self-heal’ themselves, which could be a construction breakthrough.
The destruction of building materials that we use for our cars, planes and buildings can be an expensive factor to consider when working with or using them. In turn, seeing metals waste away or break during use can we incredibly concerning, putting lives in danger because parts of a vehicle or building have become irreparable. This is something that’s very difficult to protect against due to the fact that there are so many things that can have an affect on metals. One of the most apparent cases of this is with aeroplanes which, should they become damaged during flight, could spell disaster. However, now, scientists have discovered a that some metals that allows them to ‘heal’ and repair themselves.
Researchers at MIT have made the incredible discovery by simply pulling a piece of cracked metal to the point at which they expected the metal to break. Contrary to what the researchers had expected, instead of breaking, the crack in the metal appeared to ‘heal’ and repair the crack. Under precise conditions, some metals, such as the nickel used in the experiment, are capable of this, which was a surprise to the research team. MIT materials science and engineering, professor Michael Demkowicz, said that “[They] had to go back and check. Instead of extending, [the crack] was closing up. First, [they] figured out that, indeed, nothing was wrong. The next question was: ‘Why is this happening?’”
The explanation for the discovery, according to MIT is that metals are made of grains and these are responsible for the characteristics of metals, such as how strong they are. MIT say that putting stress on cracks in some metals “causes the microstructure to change: It can make grain boundaries migrate. This grain boundary migration is the key to healing the crack.” The team also say that they are figuring out a way to incorporate these metals into components already used in planes, making them more easily repairable.
We’ll keep you posted once we know more.