A long sought-after prize of makers of biological implants and assistive technologies has been to replicate the healing powers of skin. While innovations have been made in the past few decades, these developments could be overshadowed by the work of a group of Stanford University researchers and scientists. According to press reports from the university, the team recently unveiled a synthetic skin product that, if damaged, can slowly rebuild itself anew.
Previous attempts, the release said, often resulted in man-made skins that required energy or high temperatures to initiate a self-healing response. The new compound, which is a combination of tiny metal strands and plastic polymers, allows for easier transfer of energy. This characteristic enables the repair process to start sooner.
"If you take a piece of cardboard, for example," Benjamin Tee, a graduate student associated with the project, was quoted as saying in the release. "And you cut it into two, if you have this material, it brings the two pieces together to attach the two sides to each other without a need for glue – it does it itself. That is the magic."
Others associated with the project speculated that there could be other applications for the new synthetic, including industrial construction materials that have the ability to repair cracks without the need for an engineer to perform costly maintenance. Similarly, cell phones or computer screens could be coated with the compound in order to prevent scratches or dents from spreading.
While the Stanford project is certainly a few years away from any commercial usage, it's an exciting development that could be employed in a wide variety of ways. Whether it's repairing buildings or enabling people to live longer and more fulfilling lives, this synthetic skin project is definitely one of the most exciting scientific creations this year.