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A new paint additive that could help military vehicle surfaces heal like human skin and avoid costly corrosion maintenance is getting the attention of the U.S. , especially for the service ’s variant of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle ( JLTV ).
Called polyfibroblast , the additive was developed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in partnership with the Office of Naval Research (ONR). It enables scratches forming in vehicle paint to “ scar and heal” before the effects of corrosion ever reach the metal beneath, Navy officials say.
Polyfibroblast is a powder that can be added to commercial-off-the-shelf paint primers , the Navy says. It is made up of microscopic polymer spheres filled with an oily liquid . When scratched, resin from the broken capsules forms a waxy, water-repellent coating across the exposed steel that protects against corrosion .
While many self-healing paints are designed solely for cosmetic purposes , the Navy says polyfibroblast is being engineered specifically for tactical vehicles used in a variety of harsh environments .
Development of polyfibroblast began in 2008 and has shown promising results in laboratory tests , the Navy says.
“We don’t care if it’s pretty,” says Jason Benkoski , senior scientist at the university lab and lead researcher on the project . “We only care about preventing corrosion .”
From rainstorms to sunlight , tactical vehicles face constant corrosion threats from the elements . Corrosion costs the Navy about $7 billion each year . About $500 million of that is the result of corrosion of Marine Corps ground vehicles , according to the most recentreports .
“This technology could cut maintenance costs , and, more importantly, it could increase the time vehicles are out in the field with our Marines,” says Marine Capt. Frank Furman , who manages logistics research programs for ONR’s Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare and Combating Terrorism Department .
Vehicles transported and stored on ships are also subject to ocean salt spray , 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 , the Navy says.
“We are still looking into how to make this additive even more effective, but initial results like that are encouraging,” says Scott Rideout , deputy program manager , Light Tactical Vehicles , Program Executive Officer ( PEO ) Land Systems , which is overseeing continued development on polyfibroblast for potential use on JLTV . “ Carry that out of the lab and into the inventory , and that translates to improved readiness and big savings .”