Scientists have developed a self-healing membrane ‘straight out of science fiction’.
According to the researchers, the new invention acts as a reverse filter, capable of blocking small particles while simultaneously allowing large ones to pass through.
The researchers envision a variety of uses, including enabling military doctors to perform open surgery on the battlefield.
According to the scientists, the membrane will enable surgical tools to pass through the membrane to access the wound, while keeping out dust particles and other debris – ensuring a clean environment to safely operate.
Scientists have created a self-healing membrane which is ‘straight out of science fiction’. According to the researchers that developed it, it acts as a reverse filter, blocking small particles and letting large ones through
‘The membrane filter could potentially prevent germs, dust or allergens from reaching an open wound, while still allowing a doctor to perform surgery safely,’ said Tak-Sing Wong from Penn State University, who was involved with the research.
‘This membrane could make this possible.’
Conventional filters, like those used in coffee machines or sieves, work on particle size and let through small objects while capturing larger ones.
This innovative new membrane works in a different way and responds to an object’s kinetic energy – not its size.
The team experimented with liquids and manipulated their properties when developing the space-age material.
‘If you put your finger in a glass of water and take it out, the water’s surface self-heals,’ explained Tak-Sing Wong.
‘Typically, a smaller object is associated with lower kinetic energy due to its smaller mass. So, the larger object with a higher kinetic energy will pass through the membrane, while the smaller object with lower kinetic energy will be retained.’
In addition, the membrane wraps around the object as it passes through, allowing the membrane to completely self-heal over the top.
In its simplest form, the membrane can be created with water and has a structure similar to that of a biological cell membrane.
Not only could the membrane serve as a particle barrier, but the self-healing properties would also allow medical devices such as surgical tools to pass through while contaminants stay out
Conventional filters, like those used in coffee machines work on particle size and let through small objects while capturing larger ones. The innovative new membrane works in a different way and responds to an object’s kinetic energy, not its size
An initial prototype was created using a basic soap film and then the components were modified and optimised to serve unique purposes. This was then expanded to include features such as enhanced mechanical robustness, antibacterial properties and odour-neutralisation
An initial prototype was created using a basic soap film and then the components were modified and optimised to serve unique purposes.
This was then expanded to include features such as enhanced mechanical robustness, antibacterial properties, and odour-neutralisation.
‘You could add components that make the membrane last longer or components that allow it to block certain gases,’ Dr Boschitsch explained.
‘There are endless potential additives to choose from to tailor a membrane to the application of interest.’
The research may also be useful in developing regions where there are sanitation concerns.
‘One billion people in the world still openly defecate for many reasons, one being that latrines smell bad,’ Boschitsch explained.
‘But if this could be applied to those toilets, it could allow solid waste to pass through the membrane, while the odour-causing gases will remain trapped.’
The research was published in the journal Science Advances.