Self-heal­ing paint could halt rust on mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles


Anew ad­di­tive could help mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing the Ma­rine Corps vari­ant of the joint light tac­ti­cal ve­hi­cle ( JLTV), heal like hu­man skin and avoid costly main­te­nance as a re­sult of cor­ro­sion, of­fi­cials an­nounced on March 18. De­vel­oped by the Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity Ap­plied Physics Lab­o­ra­tory in part­ner­ship with the Of­fice of Naval Re­search (ONR), poly­fi­brob­last al­lows scratches form­ing in ve­hi­cle paint to scar and heal be­fore the ef­fects of cor­ro­sion ever reach the metal be­neath.

Poly­fi­brob­last is a pow­der that can be added to commercial-off-the-shelf paint primers. It is made up of mi­cro­scopic poly­mer spheres filled with an oily liq­uid. When scratched, resin from the bro­ken cap­sules forms a waxy, wa­ter-re­pel­lant coat­ing across the ex­posed steel that pro­tects against cor­ro­sion.

While many self-heal­ing paints are de­signed solely for cos­metic pur­poses, poly­fi­brob­last is be­ing en­gi­neered specif­i­cally for tac­ti­cal ve­hi­cles used in a va­ri­ety of harsh en­vi­ron­ments.

From rain­storms to sun­light, tac­ti­cal ve­hi­cles face con­stant cor­ro­sion threats from the el­e­ments. Cor­ro­sion costs the Depart­ment of Navy about $7 bil­lion each year. About $500 mil­lion of that is the re­sult of cor­ro­sion to Ma­rine Corps ground ve­hi­cles, ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent Depart­ment of De­fense re­ports.

Ve­hi­cles trans­ported and stored on ships also are sub­ject to salt spray from the ocean, a leading cause of prob­lems for mil­i­tary hard­ware. In one lab­o­ra­tory ex­per­i­ment, poly­fi­brob­last showed it could pre­vent rust­ing for six weeks in­side a cham­ber filled with salt fog.

“We are still look­ing into how to make this ad­di­tive even more ef­fec­tive, but ini­tial re­sults like that are en­cour­ag­ing,” said Scott Ride­out, Deputy Pro­gram Man­ager, Light Tac­ti­cal Ve­hi­cles, Pro­gram Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Land Sys­tems, which is over­see­ing con­tin­ued de­vel­op­ment on poly­fi­brob­last for po­ten­tial use on the Ma­rine Corps vari­ant of the JLTV. “Carry that out of the lab and into the in­ven­tory, and that trans­lates to im­proved readi­ness and big sav­ings.”

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