The Beckman Institute researchers who pioneered self-healing plastics have earned a coveted 2007 SciAm 50 award from Scientific American, announced online in December and in the January 2008 issue of the popular science magazine.
The awards are given annually to innovators in business, policy, and research for work in a wide variety of areas, such as fuel alternatives and neurological insights. Beckman researchers Nancy Sottos, Scott White, and Jeff Moore have been working on self-healing plastics for a decade, first announcing their breakthrough work in a Nature paper in 2001. Their research was chosen by Scientific American for a 2007 SciAm 50 Material World award for their biologically-inspired development of synthetic materials that can self-repair cracks and other breaks.
Recent developments in their work have led to a more practical application of the self-healing system reported on in 2001. The Scientific American article on the Material World awards states that "the new material can repair minor cracks up to seven times at each location, improving on the group's previous system."
In describing this year's award winners, Scientific American writes that "sometimes new technologies actually live up to some of the wildest expectations for them" and that "Award winners highlighted here have the potential to contribute much more to human health, consumer electronics and numerous other fields than if they were simply offering another antidepressant that tweaked serotonin levels or ratcheting up the speed of a microprocessor. What they have done is decidedly new."
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