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Repairing yourself: Self-healing buildings, bodies, and machines

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Self-healing materials mean that a cracked smartphone screen could soon be a thing of the past
  • Researchers are developing processes which emulate animals' abilities to heal wounds
  • These could allow buildings, roads, teeth, and computers to heal when damaged

(CNN) -- Crumbling buildings, burnt-out PCs, potholes, and cracked smartphone screens -- all these damaged goods could soon be distant memories, as a new generation of "self-healing" technologies emerge.

Researchers at Delft University in the Netherlands believe they've found the secret to roads which survive wear and tear for twice as long -- by allowing the asphalt to repair small cracks before they spread further. And these researchers are not alone: scientists working in fields from electronics to dentistry believe they have found ways to make objects emulate living organisms' ability to heal when damaged.

The breakthrough came in 2001, with the development of a polymer containing tiny capsules of resin that could patch up cracks when the material was cracked. Since then, methods have got more complex, with artificial arteries, electrical stimulation, and pods of bacteria now being employed to patch up breakages.

Click on the images above to take a look at six new materials, microchips, and medical treatments that resist and repair damage, and see how they could create more sustainable surroundings.

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