In case you missed those catastrophic pipes bursts in your home, you are fortunate. Sudden bursts can lead to accidents and casualties in the most gruesome manner. Pipe decaying takes place due to several reasons like dents small dings, wear and tear, time, harsh temperatures, and so forth. However, a team of researchers recently found a viable solution to this problem in form of new method that can be used for identifying small, microscopic failures before they reach their damage causing threshold.
The Autonomous Materials Systems (AMS) Group recently discovered a new way of finding those minute, microscopic level failures that damage the composite materials and polymers way before the system reaches its expiry threshold. Nancy Sottos, the professor of engineering and materials science adds "Autonomous indication of small cracks has exciting potential to make structures safer and more reliable by giving time to intervene and repair or replace the damaged region prior to catastrophic failure." She happens to be the author of “A Robust Damage-Reporting Strategy For Polymeric Materials Enabled By Aggression-Induced Emission" paper that has been nominated for the Chemical Engineers Global Awards 2016.
The research team sequestered liquids with turn-on fluorescence indicators in form of microcapsules. These were then infused inside polymeric materials. Maxwell Robb the lead author of this paper and a Prodoctoral Fellow at Beckman Institute further explains "We have developed microcapsules that are colorless and non-fluorescent when intact. We can embed them into materials, and when damage occurs, the microcapsules will release their payload and become fluorescent, indicating that repair is needed."
This research has been sponsored by BP that is keen on coating all gas and oil pipelines with a polymer coating that will surely inform everyone about the damage. Robb says "This is incredibly interdisciplinary work, having knowledge about the aggregation-induced emission effect, and being able to design the chemistry of the microcapsule system was the starting point. Then there is the actual application of this technology into materials and coatings, which relies heavily on the expertise within materials science and engineering."