An image of a metal. Yayimages.

Scientists find metals can heal themselves

For the first time in history, scientists have observed metals cracking and self-healing.


We are bearing witness to an engineering revolution. For the first time in history, scientists have observed metals cracking and then healing themselves, a phenomenon that could significantly redefine the durability of machinery and structures, extending their lifespan. This groundbreaking observation defies established scientific theories and paves the way for the development of self-repairing engines, bridges, and aircraft.

The research, led by Sandia National Laboratories and Texas A&M University, and published in the renowned scientific journal Nature, unveils a stunning new ability of metals. “Metals possess an inherent capability to self-heal, especially when dealing with fatigue damage on a nanoscale,” said materials scientist Brad Boyce from Sandia.

In a Surprising Discovery: Scientists find metals can heal themselves

Fatigue damage is a common cause of mechanical failure. Continuous stress or motion leads to the formation of microscopic cracks, which progressively expand over time, culminating in eventual system breakdowns. The team managed to track one such nanoscale crack as it formed and then surprisingly vanished.

The concept of self-healing materials has primarily been limited to certain plastics, with self-mending metals belonging to the realm of science fiction. “The prevailing belief was that cracks in metals would only grow, not reduce. Fundamental equations governing crack growth even dismissed the possibility of such restorative processes,” Boyce added.


Challenging Conventional Wisdom

Michael Demkowicz, currently a professor at Texas A&M, laid the theoretical groundwork for this startling discovery. In 2013, he proposed a theory suggesting that metals could indeed self-repair wear-and-tear-induced cracks under specific conditions.

The revelation came unexpectedly at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies, a Department of Energy facility run by Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories. While observing crack development in a nanoscale platinum piece, the team noticed that the crack began healing itself, seamlessly merging and leaving no evidence of prior damage.

Confirming Theories, Unveiling New Possibilities

Upon sharing this finding with Demkowicz, the professor recreated the experiment through computer modeling, verifying the observed phenomenon as the same one he had theorized years prior.


There’s much yet to discover about this self-healing process and its potential applications. “This groundbreaking finding challenges researchers to acknowledge that under the right circumstances, materials can exhibit capabilities we never expected,” Demkowicz said.

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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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