Scientists have unveiled a new kind of coating that can mend its own scratches under brief exposures to ultraviolet (UV) light. A team of researchers in the United States and Switzerland has developed a polymer-based material called "metallo-supramolecular polymers," capable of becoming a supple liquid that fills crevasses and gaps left by scrapes and scuffs when placed under ultraviolet light for less than a minute and then resolidifying.
The team envisions application of this polymer primarily as coatings for consumer goods such as automobiles, floors and furniture. However, this polymer is not yet ready for commercial use. While these metallo-supramolecular polymers behave in many ways like normal polymers, when irradiated with intense ultraviolet light the assembled structures become temporarily unglued. This transforms the originally solid material into a liquid that flows easily. When the light is switched off, the material re-assembles and solidifies again; its original properties are restored. The study is detailed in the journal Nature.