(July 25, 2012) Summary:
Masaru Yoshida (Leader) and Takahiro Yamamoto (Researcher), Smart Materials Group, the Nanosystem Research Institute (Director: Kiyoshi Yase) of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST; President: Tamotsu Nomakuchi), have developed a gel material (a composite gel of polymer particles and a liquid crystal) that can repair damage to itself by light irradiation. The developed gel material can repair a small scratch on it in a short time by controlling its sol and gel states using light on the basis of photoisomerization of a photoresponsive material in the gel. This scratch-repairing process can be repeated. In addition, when transition to the sol state occurs due to large shear strain, the material quickly returns to the gel state by removing the applied strain.
The technology that can control the sol-gel transition of a material using light is expected to be a fundamental materials technology. Use of such materials in coatings that can be repaired with light will increase the durability and lifetime of products and can thereby contribute to resource savings and reduction in environmental loads.