Bristol University is leading a £3m EPSRC-funded project that will investigate the manufacture of new materials made up of biological and non-biological parts that self-heal or regenerate.
The three-year Manufacturing Immortality Project will focus initially on creating materials for use in inaccessible places such as deep-sea cables or radioactive sites. Further forward, the research could lead to self-healing mobile phone screens, or circuit boards in laptops that self-repair after being short-circuited.
The consortium is made up of experts from the Bristol University, Sheffield Hallam University, and the Universities of Manchester, Cranfield, Aberdeen, Lancaster, and Northumbria.
Dr Paul Race, principal investigator and a biochemist at Bristol said: “This is a hugely exciting project that leverages the combined expertise of researchers across seven universities and 13 companies to deliver truly transformative self-healing technologies for use across a range of application areas.
“The aim of the Manufacturing Immortality consortium is to create new materials which have the ability to regenerate – or are very difficult to break – by combining bio and non-biological composites, such as bacteria with ceramics, glass and electronics.
“This research has the potential to lead to some truly ground-breaking developments which could have a huge impact on our everyday lives – such as smartphone screens which have the ability to ‘self-heal’ if they are cracked or damaged.
“Our ultimate ambition it that the outcomes of this project will significantly contribute to positioning the UK as a world leader in innovative manufacturing technologies.”
Dr Paul Bingham, reader in materials engineering and Sheffield Hallam’s project lead, said: “This is a substantial and important project and SHU is proud to be part of this team with other leading institutions.
“The team hopes that within the next 18 months we will start to see some very exciting results which, by the end of the three-year project, could well be fully functioning devices and materials.”