The US Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory have jointly developed a new paint additive to help military vehicles such as the Marine Corps variant of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) heal similar to human skin and avoid costly maintenance due to corrosion.
The additive, known as polyfibroblast, is a powder that can be added to commercial-off-the-shelf paint primers to enable scratches forming in vehicle paint to scar and heal before the corrosion effects reach the metal beneath.
ONR Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare and Combating Terrorism Department logistics research programmes manager marine captain Frank Furman said that corrosion costs the Department of the Navy billions of dollars each year.
"This technology could cut maintenance costs, and, more importantly, it could increase the time vehicles are out in the field with our marines," Furman added.
Made up of microscopic polymer spheres filled with an oily liquid, the new self-healing paint is specifically designed for tactical vehicles used in a variety of harsh environments.
When scratched, resin from the broken capsules creates a waxy, water-repellant coating across the exposed steel, protecting against corrosion.
During a laboratory experiment, the new additive demonstrated its ability to prevent rusting for six weeks inside a chamber filled with salt fog.
Light Tactical Vehicles, Program Executive Officer (PEO) Land Systems deputy programme manager Scott Rideout said that the team is seeking ways to make the additive even more effective, but the initial results are encouraging.
The polyfibroblast research and development represents the US Marine Corps' aim to be "modernized with equipment and logistics that expand expeditionary capability and preserve our ability to operate from the sea", according to a statement in the Marine Corps Vision and Strategy 2025.
Image: The US military's Joint Light Tactical Vehicle prototypes. Photo: courtesy of US Army.