The additive developed by the Office of Naval Research and Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory is called polyfibroblast, which allows scratches in vehicle paint to scar and heal before the effects of corrosion reach the metal beneath.
"Corrosion costs the Department of the Navy billions of dollars each year," said Marine Capt. Frank Furman, who manages logistics research programs for ONR's Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare and Combating Terrorism Department. "This technology could cut maintenance costs, and, more importantly, it could increase the time vehicles are out in the field with our Marines."
Polyfibroblast is a powder that can be added to commercial-off-the-shelf paint primers. The Navy said it is composed of microscopic polymer spheres filled with an oily liquid. When scratched, resin from the broken capsules forms a waxy, water-repellent coating across the vehicle's exposed steel. Many self-healing paints are designed for cosmetic purposes but polyfibroblast is being engineered specifically for tactical vehicles used in harsh environments.
The Navy said the cost of corrosion is $6 billion annually for the service and that half of that comes from damaged Marine Corps vehicles.
Development of polyfibroblast began in 2008 and work is continuing to improve its effectiveness.