Plastic, Heal Thyself!

Family potluck, plate of fixin’s. . . Another plastic fork bites the dust!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Plastic items break every day, from phone cases to prosthetics. If only they could fix themselves!

Traditional plastic is like a long chain of repeating molecular units. Like chains, the individual units are bound together. But plastic is bound by a chemical bond. And when this bond breaks, the chain is broken.

He Tian and his team at East China University wanted to reinvent the chain. Instead of solid links, they made something more like Velcro. Like Velcro, the chemical bonds holding the plastic together can break and reform.

This technology was already developed — but it’s expensive. Tian’s team discovered a new, simple and cheap recipe, with just three ingredients. Their method creates a self-healing plastic that mends tiny, invisible cracks before we can even notice them!

Forks, knives and other items made from these plastics will last longer. Hopefully this means less of them will up in landfills.

Next time you drop your phone, keep calm and carry on — it may fix itself!

As for that turkey leg? Just eat it with your hands!