Self-healing material is a sci-fi dream come true

06 Apr 2017 | By Anish Chakraborty
Self-healing technology to repair phones on their own

Smartphone displays getting cracked is not a far-fetched scenario in modern times.

But what if we had a phone that would just repair itself instead of needing a replacement?

Scientists have now come up with a self-healing material that will take care of the cracks on its own.

It's too late to pull an April's fool prank, so let's find out how it works.

In context: Self-healing technology to repair phones on their own

06 Apr 2017Self-healing material is a sci-fi dream come true

The team

Dr. Chao Wang of the University of California, Riverside and his team, however, has developed a "self-healing" material that has powers much like that of Wolverine's, who has been Wang's idol when he was a child.
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After a dent, all you have to do is wait

IntroductionAfter a dent, all you have to do is wait

This transparent self-healing material, if torn, can heal itself back together much like how our skin repairs itself.

The self-healing material is made from a special form of polymer and ionic salt which can be stretched almost 50 times than its original size and the large organic molecular chains which it is composed of, have repeated sub-units capable of fusing with each other.

How it worksThe Eureka of self-healing breakthrough is chemical bonding

There are two types of bonds that exist in materials. Covalent bonds which are strong and therefore, incapable of repair once it's broken and non-covalent bonds, which are more dynamic but weak in nature.

What makes the self-healing polymer work is the fact that strong covalent bonds and weaker non-covalent bonds are both present in the material simultaneously.

AvenuesFragile smartphone screens are no longer scary

A good smartphone burns quite a hole in the pocket and most of us carry it around precariously because the screens are fragile and may crack easily.

Luckily Wang says that he has been working on self-healing lithium ion battery and screen, so even if one drops his/her smartphone, it would able to just repair itself and last much longer.

MarketIt's still in beta but will soon be available

Wang and his team are now working on altering the polymer to improve upon the self-healing properties of the material so that it can be ready as soon as possible for real-world applications.

They are also running simulations to see how they can overcome hurdles of getting it work in harsh conditions like extreme humidity, which affects the self-healing properties.

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EdgeWhat sets this new development apart?

Previously, smartphone maker LG had come up with a model called G Flex that used self-healing activity.

The back of the phone could heal itself against minor dents and scratches but the limitation with this tech was it was not capable of conducting electricity.

Since that has been overcome with this new development, it can be effectively used to repair smartphone screens.

ProductWhen can we expect to get our hands on it?

Wang has already presented its research to the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific organization devoted to the study of chemistry.

The team expects, with the current pace of progress, they will be able to make it commercially available for phone screens and lithium batteries by 2020.