This material for smartphone screens can repair itself

smartphones 2013
Credit: Jon Fingas

What's more annoying than a cracked or shattered smartphone screen?

Well, lots of things, probably, but that doesn't mean it isn't still really frustrating. Luckily, it may not be for that much longer, thanks to new research that has produced a material capable of self-repair that could be used for future smartphone screens. But how does it work?

In IT Blogwatch, we learn something new. 

So what is going on? Alexandra Arici shares some background:

Chemists at the University of California, Riverside invented a new self-healing...material that has the potential to solve the expensive problem of cracked smartphone displays permanently...thanks to the new screen material, in the near future smartphones with bruised displays will simply be able to self-heal the damage.

Self-healing? What exactly does that mean? Nick Whigham elaborates:

One of the leading researchers Chao Wang...said the team conducted a number of experiments on the material’s ability to repair itself. In one instance, after being torn in half, it automatically stitched itself back together in under 24 hours.
...
Dr. Wang developed an interest in self-healing materials because of his lifelong love of Wolverine, the comic book character who has the ability to self-heal.

But how does it do that? Leanna Garfield tells us how it works:

The material, which can stretch to 50 times its original size, is made of a stretchable polymer and an ionic salt. It features a...bond called an ion-dipole interaction, which is a force between charged ions and polar molecules...when the material breaks or has a scratch, the ions and molecules attract to each other to heal the material.

Haven't we seen self-healing materials before, though? What makes this one special? Michael Potuck is in the know:

While there have been some applications of self-healing materials in smartphones like LG’s G Flex, they have been mostly limited to the back of the device. This...is the first material that can conduct electricity allowing for use with touchscreens and may also make new innovation possible in the battery industry.

So what is next for this material? Kyle Wiggers has those details:

Going forward, the researchers hope to improve the material’s properties. They’re testing it in harsh conditions, such as high humidity....Wang predicts that this new self-healing material will make its way into phone screens and batteries by 2020.

One more question: Are there any downsides to this material? John can think of one:

Just what the machine overlords have been waiting for. And so they drew their plans...
Shop Tech Products at Amazon