WASHINGTON, Oct. 14 (Xinhua) -- The gel-like polymer incorporates carbon dioxide from the air, to grow, strengthen and even repair itself, according to a study published in the latest journal Advanced Materials.
The new material might be made into panels of a lightweight matrix that could be shipped to a construction site, where they would harden and solidify just from exposure to air and sunlight, thereby saving on the energy and cost of transportation.
Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of California at Riverside developed the material that might someday be used as construction or repair material or for protective coatings.
"Imagine a synthetic material that could grow like trees, taking the carbon from the carbon dioxide and incorporating it into the material's backbone," said the paper's co-author Michael Strano at MIT.
The researchers used a gel matrix composed of a polymer, an enzyme called glucose oxidase, and the chloroplasts.
The chloroplasts obtained from spinach leaves are the light-harnessing components within plant cells, which could catalyze the reaction of carbon dioxide to glucose.
Therefore, the material becomes stronger as it incorporates the carbon. Although, it is not yet strong enough to be used as a building material, it could function as a crack filling or coating material.
The team has demonstrated methods to produce materials of this type by the ton, and is now focusing on optimizing the material's properties. So, the commercial applications such as self-healing coatings and crack filling are realizable in the near term, according to the researchers.