At the University of California, scientists have created what they’re calling a Wolverine-inspired transparent, self-healing, conductive material with a range of potential uses including powering artificial muscles.
What exactly is the material?
It's an ionic conductor, so a material that ions can flow through. Chao Wang, one of the scientists working on the project combined a polar, stretchable polymer with a mobile, high-ionic-strength salt to create this unusual material.
And it can power artificial muscles?
Yes if electrically charged. It should also be useful for improving the life of batteries, electronic devices and robots.
According to the university the material has a range of potential uses. It could allow robots the ability to self-heal should they fail and could extend the life of lithium ion batteries. It could also be used to improve improve biosensors used in medical applications.
So what’s the Wolverine link?
Wang admits to a life-long love of Wolverine, a comic book character who boasts the ability to self-heal. This mutant character with animal senses and an ability to regenerate, led Wang to develop a similar material.
The result is a soft low-cost, easy to produce rubber-like material that stretch 50 times its original length. When cut the material can heal itself at room temperature, in fact, the university says that within five minutes of this happening, it can be stretched to twice its original length.
“Creating a material with all these properties has been a puzzle for years,” said Wang, on the university website. “We did that and now are just beginning to explore the applications.”