Piezoelectric Organic Crystals Autonomously Recombine and Selfheal Fracture with Precise Order


Living tissue uses stress-accumulated electrical charge to close wounds, yet to-date this piezoelectric effect has not been realised in self-repairing synthetic materials which are typically soft amorphous materials requiring external stimuli, prolonged physical contact and long healing times (often >24h). Here we overcome many of these challenges using piezoelectric organic crystals, which upon mechanical fracture, instantly recombine without any external direction, autonomously self-healing in milliseconds with remarkable crystallographic precision. Atomic-resolution structural studies reveal that a 3D hydrogen bonding network, with ability to store stress, facilitates generation of stress-induced electrical charges on the fractured crystals, creating an electrostatically-driven precise recombination of the pieces via a diffusionless instant self-healing, as supported by spatially-resolved birefringence experiments. Perfect, instant self-healing creates new opportunities for deployment of molecular crystals in robust miniaturised devices, and may also spur development of new molecular level repair mechanisms in complex biomaterials.