So some punk keyed your car at the mall — don't worry about it! The days of stressing about dings may soon end: Illinois-based Autonomic Materials has created additives that make paint heal itself. The technology, developed at the University of Illinois, works by embedding hundreds of thousands of microscopic capsules filled with healing agents in every square foot of a painted surface. "When damage occurs, those capsules break open, the healing agents mix, and a new polymer is laid in place where the damage happened," says CEO Larry Evans. "It's like blood clotting on a cut."
Autonomic Materials is now working with several major coatings companies to bring its first products — targeting infrastructure and heavy machinery, such as oil platforms and cargo-ship hulls — to market by 2010. Evans says the company is exploring other applications, from planes to trains to automobiles, and using the technology with other substances, such as adhesives. Everything, it seems, could use a little healing.
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A version of this article appeared in the April 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.