Nancy Sottos

Nancy Sottos’s research focuses on autonomous materials, drawing inspiration from nature, to find the best way to have materials heal themselves. She, along with Jeffrey S. Moore and Scott White, created the first self-healing polymers with theĀ first demonstration in 2001.Sottos graduated with her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Delaware in 1986 and her Ph.D. in 1991. She then came to teach at the University of Illinois in 1991 and was a professor in the Department of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics. Her research has focused on self-healing polymers and autonomous materials. In 2004, she became the co-chair of Molecular and Electronic Nanostructures Research Theme at the Beckman Institute. In 2006 she moved to the Department of Material Science and Engineering.

The creation of the self-healing polymers has helped to make materials last longer and stronger. Cracks in plastics can make the plastic weaker and wear out faster. She has created several methods for polymers to be self-healing with the microencapsulated systems method leading to the polymer being able to recover 90% of it’s toughness and the microvascular system being able to recover 82% toughness.

Her research group has continued their study of nanostructures, conducting research and creating new methods for self-healing polymers and other areas, such as self reporting materials that change color when broken. Another area of research are smart materials that will have a triggered response to a certain input. For example, if the input (such as temperature) were to change, then a desired change in the properties of the polymer would occur automatically. She has also worked on thermal sensitivity and thin films.

Another way that self-healing polymers are being applied by Sottos is to put them in batteries to extend how long they can be used and how much energy the battery is able to retain over time. This will especially be useful in our everyday lives for products such as cell phones and electric car batteries.

– Beckman Institute. This is where Nancy and her team conduct research.


For more information on self-healing polymers, click here.

For more information on work Sottos and her lab have been working on at Beckman, click here

For an article about self-healing polymers and batteries, click here

For more stories on women engineers, click here


Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. (n.d). Autonomous Materials Systems. Retrieved from

Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. (n.d.) Sottos Research Group. Retrieved from:

Department of Materials Science and Engineering. (2017). Nancy R. Sottos. Retrieved from

Ghosh, S. K. (Ed.). (2009, August 4). Self-healing Materials: Fundamentals, Design Strategies, and Applications. Available from

Nancy Sottos. (2017, September 2). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from

Yoksoulian, L. E. (2017, May 15). Self-healing tech charges up performance for silicon-containing battery anodes. [Web log]. Retrieved from

Contributors: Kristen Allen