Self-Healing Materials for Decarbonization

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Self-healing materials are a class of smart materials that can autonomously repair damage, such as cracks or scratches, without external intervention. Inspired by the self-healing capabilities of biological systems, these materials offer the potential to extend the lifespan of products, reduce maintenance costs, and minimize waste.

Impact on climate action

Self-Healing Materials for Decarbonization within Advanced Materials mitigate climate impact by extending product lifespans and reducing resource consumption. By repairing structural damage autonomously, these innovations minimize waste, promote circularity, and contribute to a more sustainable economy, ultimately lowering carbon emissions and fostering resilience to climate change.


Self-healing materials achieve their remarkable ability through various mechanisms:

  • Microcapsule Healing: Microcapsules containing a healing agent are embedded within the material. When damage occurs, the microcapsules rupture and release the healing agent, which fills the crack and restores the material’s integrity.
  • Vascular Healing: Inspired by the vascular system in living organisms, these materials contain a network of channels filled with a healing agent. When damage occurs, the healing agent flows to the damaged area and repairs the material.
  • Intrinsic Self-Healing: Some materials have intrinsic self-healing properties due to their molecular structure or chemical composition. For example, certain polymers can re-form broken bonds when exposed to heat or light.

TRL : 5-7

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Microcapsule Design and Optimization: Researchers are developing new microcapsule designs and materials to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of self-healing mechanisms. This includes optimizing the size, shape, and shell material of microcapsules, as well as developing new healing agents with improved properties.
  • Vascular Network Design: Innovations in vascular network design are improving the flow and distribution of healing agents within self-healing materials.
  • Bio-Inspired Self-Healing Mechanisms: Researchers are exploring bio-inspired self-healing mechanisms, such as those found in biological tissues, to develop new and more effective self-healing materials.
  • Self-Healing Composites: Self-healing composites incorporate self-healing materials into composite structures, improving their durability and extending their lifespan.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Advanced Microcapsule Designs
  • Enhanced Vascular Network Systems
  • Bio-Inspired Self-Healing Mechanisms
  • Self-Healing Composite Structures
  • Next-Generation Healing Agents
  • Optimization of Microcapsule Efficiency
  • Bio-Mimetic Healing Mechanisms
  • Self-Repairing Polymer Innovations
  • Smart Coating Technologies
  • Autonomous Repair Systems
  • Sustainable Infrastructure Solutions
  • Automotive Self-Healing Applications
  • Electronics Durability Enhancements
  • Resilient Construction Materials
  • Novel Microcapsule Materials
  • Advanced Vascular Flow Control
  • Bio-Compatible Healing Agents

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Autonomic Materials:
    • Technology Enhancement: Autonomic Materials develops self-healing systems for polymers and coatings. Their technology incorporates microcapsules containing healing agents, which rupture upon damage, releasing healing agents to repair cracks and restore material integrity.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Autonomic Materials’ self-healing technology offers a proactive approach to material maintenance, enabling longer-lasting and more durable products. Their systems find applications in coatings, adhesives, and composites, enhancing performance and reducing maintenance costs.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Autonomic Materials serves industries requiring durable and long-lasting materials, including automotive, aerospace, infrastructure, and consumer goods. Their self-healing coatings and materials are used in various applications to improve reliability and reduce maintenance downtime.
  • Arkema:
    • Technology Enhancement: Arkema develops self-healing materials based on chemical and physical principles. Their products include self-healing polymers, coatings, and composites designed to repair damage autonomously through chemical reactions or reversible processes.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Arkema’s self-healing materials offer tailored solutions for specific applications, ranging from scratch-resistant coatings to impact-resistant polymers. Their materials improve product longevity and reliability while reducing the need for repairs or replacements.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Arkema serves a wide range of industries, including automotive, electronics, construction, and healthcare. Their self-healing materials find applications in coatings, adhesives, packaging, and structural components, enhancing performance and durability.
  • Sensor Coating Systems:
    • Technology Enhancement: Sensor Coating Systems develops self-healing coatings for high-temperature applications. Their coatings incorporate microcapsules containing healing agents that activate upon exposure to heat, repairing damage caused by thermal cycling or oxidation.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Sensor Coating Systems’ self-healing coatings offer protection against thermal degradation and corrosion in high-temperature environments. Their technology improves component reliability and extends service life, particularly in aerospace, power generation, and industrial applications.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Sensor Coating Systems serves industries requiring heat-resistant and corrosion-resistant materials, including aerospace, power generation, and industrial manufacturing. Their self-healing coatings are applied to turbine components, exhaust systems, and other critical components to enhance performance and longevity.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign:
    • Research Focus: The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is known for its groundbreaking work in the development of self-healing materials, focusing on materials capable of autonomously repairing damage caused by mechanical stress, fatigue, or environmental factors.
    • Uniqueness: Their research often involves the incorporation of microcapsules, vascular networks, or reversible chemical bonds into polymers, ceramics, and composites to enable self-healing capabilities.
    • End-use Applications: The university’s work has applications in aerospace, automotive, and infrastructure industries. For example, they’re researching self-healing coatings for aircraft wings and fuselages, as well as self-healing concrete for repairing cracks in bridges and buildings.
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):
    • Research Focus: MIT is a leader in research on self-healing materials, exploring novel approaches for enhancing material durability and extending the lifespan of engineering structures.
    • Uniqueness: Their research often involves the development of stimuli-responsive materials, such as shape-memory polymers, microvascular networks, and reversible crosslinking mechanisms, capable of repairing damage on demand.
    • End-use Applications: MIT’s work finds applications in consumer electronics, medical devices, and infrastructure. For instance, they’re investigating self-healing polymers for flexible electronics, self-repairing hydrogels for biomedical implants, and self-healing coatings for corrosion protection in marine environments.
  • Delft University of Technology (TU Delft):
    • Research Focus: TU Delft conducts cutting-edge research on self-healing materials, exploring bio-inspired approaches for achieving autonomous repair and regeneration in synthetic materials.
    • Uniqueness: They are known for their work on bio-inspired self-healing mechanisms, such as encapsulated healing agents, bacterial-mediated repair, and hierarchical structures, mimicking natural healing processes.
    • End-use Applications: TU Delft’s research has applications in construction, renewable energy, and transportation. For example, they’re researching self-healing asphalt for repairing cracks in roads, self-repairing coatings for offshore wind turbine blades, and self-healing polymers for lightweight automotive components.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Self-healing materials are being implemented in various commercial applications, including:

  • Automotive Coatings: Self-healing coatings are used on car paint to repair minor scratches and protect against corrosion.
  • Electronics: Self-healing materials are being explored for use in electronic devices to improve their durability and reliability.
  • Construction Materials: Self-healing concrete and asphalt are being developed to extend the lifespan of infrastructure and reduce maintenance costs.