Clothes that heal themselves through the power of squid teeth

Researchers have invented a self-repairing mechanism for clothing using the proteins found in squid chompers.

Michelle Starr
Michelle Starr Science editor
Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
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A reef squid, Sepioteuthis lessoniana, in the Indian Ocean.

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Are you accident-prone? Self-repairing clothing may be in your future, thanks to Walter Dressick of the Naval Research Office and Melik Demirel of Pennsylvania State University.

Dressick, Demirel and their team have developed an autonomous self-repairing mechanism for tears in textiles such as cotton, linen and wool, as published in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

Self-repairing material has proven pretty elusive. They either require a complicated set-up, such as the self-repairing plastic that feeds holes with a vascular system, or they take while, such as the self-healing e-skin that takes 30 minutes to knit.

Another approach has involved coating a surface with polyelectrodes that work quickly to repair cracks, but again, this has limitations, such as becoming brittle under dry conditions.

Dressick, Demirel and their team turned to nature for a solution. More specifically, the proteins found in the rings of teeth in squid suckers. These proteins are very similar to the proteins found in spider silk -- both strong and elastic in a wide range of conditions. The team developed a coating based on these proteins, and tested it on fabric.

When dipped in water, the two cut pieces of the fabric bonded together in less than a minute. This coating could be used for quick repairs, to help extend the life of everyday materials and, the researchers said, in military applications such as a barrier from chemicals.