Reversible Self-Healing for Preserving Optical Transparency and Repairing Mechanical Damage in Composites

Kenan Song, Roberta Polak, Shiran Zhang, Michael F. Rubner, Robert E. Cohen, Khalid A. Askar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


This research concentrates on the healing of optical properties, roughness, contact angle hysteresis, and shallow scratches in polymer/nanoparticle composites. A series of ternary composite blends [epoxy/halloysite nanotubes (HNTs)/cellulose acetate butyrate (CAB)] with various CAB concentrations were fabricated and subjected to a series of mechanical damages. The optimized concentration of a nanoparticle is 1.0 vol %, and the CAB concentration is 3.0 vol % based on the mechanical reinforcement and wear resistance. Nanoscale scratching, microlevel falling-sand test, and macrolevel Taber abrasions were utilized to damage the surfaces. The induced damage (roughness and surface scratch up to hundreds of nanometers in depth) healed upon heating. At any temperatures above the softening transition of the semi-interpenetrating network structure of the polymer composites, CAB migrates into the microcracks, and the essential mechanical parameters (modulus, strength, strain to failure) are recovered; in our particular epoxy/HNTs/CAB system, optical transparency is also recovered efficiently. CAB also moves to the macroscopic air/specimen interface and favorably modifies the surface properties, reducing the roll-off angles of water droplets from ∼90° to ∼20°. Through an appropriate choice of CAB additives with different molecular weights, the healing temperature can be tailored.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)12797-12807
Number of pages11
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number13
StatePublished - 3 Apr 2019


  • composites
  • mechanical
  • multifunctional
  • self-healing
  • transparent


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