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. Marine Corps, 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 recent Department of Defense reports .

“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 .”