Grafenberg, Germany -- A research team from the University of Freiburg led by biomimetics expert Dr Olga Speck has succeeded in making polyurethane which is self-healing on a laboratory scale. At a specialist symposium "Innovative Sealing Technologies" at Rampf in Grafenberg, 25 March 2010, the scientist will introduce the first technical application of this development: a self-repairing membrane for pneumatic structures.
"Nature provides us with a virtually inexhaustible reservoir of biological models. We must use this treasure in order to create innovations," said Speck in a preview of her presentation. Spock's work focusses on self-repair and self-adaptation of materials -called "Biomimetic Self-repairing Membranes," or BSM. This is an interdisciplinary research project between biologists and chemists from the university as well as physicists and engineers at Empa -- the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research.
In collaboration with Rampf Giessharze in Grafenberg, initial investigations showed the potential for transferring the wound-sealing properties of lianas (tropical jungle vines) to a semi-rigid moulded Rampf foam.
A practical outlet for such properties would be in pneumatic systems where a self-repairing coating on plastic membranes would prevents a tear in the membrane resulting in an immediate pressure loss. Normally, the Raku-Pur material uses, which has low viscosity, good adhesion and high mechanical strength, is used in the manufacture of filters, Rampf notes.
Through the BSM project, entirely new uses of Raku-Pur are possible - "perhaps in the construction of event halls or temporary bridges with the inflatable lightweight load-bearing structure Tensairity, which is being investigated at EMPA in Switzerland." Tensairity is a strong lightweight material from the company Airlight, based on air-filled flexible tube, cables and rods.
Ramp's statement notes that the first test results are encouraging. "In the case of damage from nails up to a diameter of five mm, the rate of the drop in pressure could be reduced by two to three orders of magnitude in comparison to uncoated membranes, so that an excellent self-repairing effect could be achieved. Even air mattresses or inflatable boats could perhaps profit from the 'airy' construction one day," said Speck.
"RAMPF has grown as a company through innovations. And the development continues. Our partners from the University of Freiburg are impressive proof of this fact," said Dr Klaus Schamel, general manager of Rampf Giessharze. As well as practical demonstrations of Rampf's latest technologies, the meeting will include lectures from companies including Bayer MaterialScience AG and Kuka Roboter GmbH.
Rampf's Raku-Pur sealing system is used in switching cabinets, lighting, household appliances, and also in the automotive industry.
PIC: Lianas have self-healing properties