In the classic action film Terminator 2, the villainous T-1000 is made from liquid metal, an amorphous material that instantly seals up any wounds it suffers.
Dev Chidambaram’s research team at the University of Nevada, Reno hasn’t created a liquid-metal formula worthy of Hollywood special effects, but they have done something that’s almost as cool: a self-healing coating for aluminum. Designed for aerospace and defense applications, the molybdate-based formula is also much more environmentally friendly than the cancer-causing chromate coating used in specific situations (but banned for consumer usage).
The research team’s formula uses the term “self-healing” based on the way the coating repairs itself after damages or scratches. From Phys.org:
“When scratched, the coating components from nearby sites migrate to the damaged region and re-protect the underlying alloy. A short video of the coating formation is on Chidambaram’s website, http://www.electrochemical.org under the heading “Cool Videos.”
Chidambaram’s formulation performs comparably to the chromate formula in its ability for self-healing, which is important to the defense and aerospace industry. The coating can be applied to all aluminum products. The new formula creates an environmentally-benign molybdate-based coating that provides corrosion protection to aluminum, used for aircraft and spacecraft. These coatings, when damaged, will re-heal themselves.”
While the team will continue to evolve the formula, the fact that it’s environmentally formula means that we could eventually see this in other industries using aluminum. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean liquid-metal assassins that travel through time. Not yet, anyway.