New Self-Healing Polymer in Development

An Asian man running tests in a laboratory.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Self-healing materials have long been something of a Holy Grail for chemists. For those unfamiliar with the term, self-healing materials are materials that, if say broken into two, can rejoin.

It may sound unrealistic, but that’s how our skin works. The trick is figuring out how to do that with artificial matter.

Believe it or not, self-healing materials have been in the works for a while now. Unfortunately, there are a few kinks that developers need to work out before this kind of technology can be brought to market. Humidity, for example, wreaks havoc on such materials since water gets into them and changes the chemical properties. A self-healing material isn’t all that useful if it only works in the desert.

But according to Dr. Chao Wang, who has been working on self-healing materials for a while now, things are looking brighter. He’s developed a material that is capable of self-healing and can conduct ions in order to generate current. It’s even stretchable, so it has a lot of potential uses, like in smart phones or soft robotics. He says he was inspired by Marvel’s Wolverine, known for his “healing factor” which makes him nearly un-killable.

And although the material doesn’t stand up to humidity (not yet anyway) that’s the next goal on Wang’s list. Wang plans to fix the problem by “tweaking the covalent bonds within the polymer itself.” Once he has that figured out, the polymer will be that much closer to being usable in a variety of real-world applications.

Wang uses the example of a smartphone which can repair itself after being dropped. Since the material in question is transparent, this would make for an ideal use. Of course, there are no doubt countless uses for such a material, in manufacturing or in consumer products, which could no doubt help us reduce waste with longer-lasting products.

Facebook Acquires WhatsApp for $19 Billion

WhatsApp

IMG: Sam Azgor via Flickr

Facebook acquired startup and rapidly growing mobile messaging company WhatsApp for $19 billion. It’s Facebook’s largest acquisition to date. In the deal, Facebook said it will pay WhatsApp $4 billion in cash and $12 billion in stock. Founders and employees of WhatsApp will be eligible for another $3 billion in stock grants that would be paid out if they remain employed by Facebook for four years.

“WhatsApp is on a path to connect 1 billion people. The services that reach that milestone are all incredibly valuable,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement announcing the deal.  “I’ve known Jan for a long time and I’m excited to partner with him and his team to make the world more open and connected.”

With over 450 million people using the service each month, up to 70 percent of users actively use the platform on a given day. Growth continues as the messaging service adds more than one million new registered users per day.

WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum will also join Facebook’s board of directors.

“WhatsApp’s extremely high user engagement and rapid growth are driven by the simple, powerful and instantaneous messaging capabilities we provide,” Koum said. “We’re excited and honored to partner with Mark and Facebook as we continue to bring our product to more people around the world.”

WhatsApp will continue to operate as a stand-alone company. Facebook said Wednesday that Facebook Messenger will continue to operate separately as well.

Koum wrote a blog entry assuring users that service would remain the same.

“You can continue to enjoy the service for a nominal fee. You can continue to use WhatsApp no matter where in the world you are, or what smartphone you’re using. And you can still count on absolutely no ads interrupting your communication.”

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