Using Nanoparticles to Create Self-Healing Composites

J Chem Phys. 2004 Sep 15;121(11):5531-40. doi: 10.1063/1.1784432.


The need for viable materials for optical communications, display technologies, and biomedical engineering is driving the creation of multilayer composites that combine brittle materials, such as glass, with moldable polymers. However, crack formation is a critical problem in composites where thin brittle films lie in contact with deformable polymer layers. Using computer simulations, we show that adding nanoparticles to the polymers yields materials in which the particles become localized at nanoscale cracks and effectively form "patches" to repair the damaged regions. Through micromechanics simulations, we evaluate the properties of these systems in the undamaged, damaged, and healed states and determine optimal conditions for harnessing nanoparticles to act as responsive, self-assembled "band aids" for composite materials. The results reveal situations where the mechanical properties of the repaired composites can potentially be restored to 75%-100% of the undamaged material.