The human circulatory system is an amazing, multifunctional part of our body. In addition to transporting blood and its components, it assists in thermoregulation and facilitates the mixing and interaction of drugs and other fluids in the body.
Inspired by the versatility of the circulatory system, a team of researchers from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, have developed a new material with some unique properties. The synthetic material is vascularized, meaning it’s full of tiny, hollow passageways, much like the distal capillaries in the organs of our body. And much like the vessels in our body, what flows through them, such as blood or lymphatic fluid, can influence the vessels’ physical properties. For example, depending on the fluid circulated through the unique, composite material, the resulting material as a whole can become stronger and stiffer with potential for self-healing..
In a paper published in Advanced Materials, researchers demonstrated four applications of the composite material by circulating different fluids through a vascular composite: temperature regulation was achieved by circulating coolant or a hot fluid. Chemical reaction occurred when researchers injected chemicals into different vascular branches that merged, which mixed the chemicals to produce a luminescent reaction. Researchers made the structure electrically active by using conductive liquid, and changed its electromagnetic signature with ferrofluids.
The composite material may seem simple in principle, but it has a lot of potential in a variety of applications, such as self-healing polymers or fuel cells. And as this dynamic material was inspired by our body’s own vascular system, it could find its place mimicking many biological functions in future implantable medical devices.
Article from UIUC: Vascular composites enable dynamic structural materials
Journal abstract from Advanced Materials: Three-Dimensional Microvascular Fiber-Reinforced Composites