Lamar University Researchers Develop 3D Printed Self-Healing Material to Cut Back on Waste

© Lamar University

A team of researchers from Lamar University in Texas, led by assistant professor Dr. Keivan Davami, recently developed a self-healing material using advanced SLA 3D printing technology, which has all kinds of applications, from fixing shoe soles and cell phone screens to cartilage. By exposing the material to UV light, it is capable of “autonomic self-repair,” and the researchers believe that it could help reduce how much waste is generated when a material is damaged – if it can heal itself, the damage can be repaired without any waste.

Dr. Davami, who is also the director of the university’s Nano-Micro-Macro manufacturing group, and his group published a paper on their work, titled “Additively Manufactured Self-Healing Structures with Embedded Healing Agent Reservoirs,” in Scientific Reports; co-authors are Mehrdad Mohsenizadeh, Morgan Mitcham, Praveen Damasus, Quintin Williams, and Michael Munther.

Williams, Damasus and Munther provided insight on their roles and experience with the Nano-Micro-Macro manufacturing group. 

Quintin Williams:

"My role in our project was to design and fabricate the self healing structures used. I then assisted with mechanical testing on the structures and with the interpretation of the collected test data.

Prior to meeting Dr. Davami, I fully intended to graduate from Lamar and pursue a job in Oil & Gas or possibly Manufacturing. However, I could not truly see myself working in either field nor was I even sure if Mechanical Engineering was the right choice for me.

During the Spring of 2018, I took Mechanics of Solids with Dr. Davami and found myself captivated with the passion and intensity he showed for teaching. At the same time, I started to become curious of what it would be like to be a professor. At the end of the semester I knew for a fact that Mechanical Engineering was right for me. In July, Dr. Davami allowed me to both join his research team and work as a teaching assistant for his summer Mechanics of Solids class.

Working as a researcher and a teaching assistant has completely convinced me that any job other than academia is not for me. Dr. Davami has told me several times that I can become an outstanding professor and I fully intend to do so. In order to make that happen, I will pursue a Ph. D after finishing my Bachelors Degree at Lamar. I am hoping that my hard work and the publication will aid me to get into a prestigious college such as Rice, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, or MIT. Without meeting Dr. Davami, I would have never attempted to pursue a Doctorate degree especially at the high-end colleges he encouraged me to apply to. Ultimately, I hoping that I can be at least half as good as a professor Dr. Davami."

Praveen Damasus:

I had amazing experience working with NMM group and I'm proud to be part of it. Bringing an idea into existence with a pragmatic & innovative approach is one of the greatest strengths of NMM group.

I was responsible for the nanomechanical characterization in this project. Being a part of team has taught me a constructive way of working while learning professional values like integrity, teamwork, excellence and respect which is extremely helpful for me towards my career.
I am immensely grateful for Dr. Davami's guidance towards this project, also thankful to every researcher of this group.

Michael Munther:

"As someone only beginning to navigate their way through their career in academia, it is sometimes difficult to feel that your work has any sort of significant impact on the world around you. Being a member of this group has taught me that meaningful research is achievable with a good idea, a team of dedicated researchers, and the proper guidance. I am extremely proud of my team and am thankful for Dr. Davami's guidance throughout this project."

The team’s material was inspired by nature – the seal-healing resin is trapped inside the material through a series of reservoirs, and it’s only released when a fracture occurs. Does this sound familiar? It’s comparable to the microvascular blood networks in our skin that, when injured, help restore our tissue. Only in this case, rather than blood coming up to an injury’s surface, capillary action allows the UV-sensitive resin to escape, so that only the necessary amount is used in order to fix isolated damage.

As a story in New Atlas explained it, “As long as those objects remain undamaged, the liquid stays contained. If the polymerized resin gets cracked, however, capillary action draws some of the liquid resin out. Once quickly exposed to an artificial UV light source, that liquid resin then polymerizes, sealing up the crack.”

According to the university, hardly any intervention other than short exposure to UV light will be necessary to repair any damage the material sustains, due to the “autonomic functionality of the self-healing mechanism.” The UV light exposure can be done remotely, which will be especially helpful when it comes to device components that are difficult to reach.

The potential benefits of this self-healing 3D printable material are far-reaching – it would be far quicker to use the material to fix everyday items that are easily damaged, like device components, eyeglasses, and tools. In addition, if more items are made with this kind of self-repairing mechanism, the amount of waste delivered to landfills due to broken products would be drastically reduced.

For their paper, Dr. Davami’s research group fabricated test specimens of their material, which were designed in SOLIDWORKS, on the Formlabs Form 2 SLA 3D printer. They are now working to further develop the technology, with the goal of reducing how much light energy is required to cause the self-healing. This would mean that human intervention would not be necessary, and self-repair could occur with only ambient UV sources, like sunlight.

By: Sarah Saunders

To view Sarah's article please visit​ealing-material/.


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