Back in 2015, Japanese scientists developed a new type of glass that is just as strong as steel and iron. Although it might be a while before we can get our hands on it, the team believes the breakthrough could pave the way for sturdier electronic visual displays. More recently, a group of chemists from UC Riverside has come up with an innovative new material that promises self-repairing smartphone screens.
Inspired by Wolverine’s self-healing prowess, the researchers created the transparent substance by combining ionic salt with a highly-stretchable polymer. The product is incredibly flexible, and can be stretched to nearly 50 times its actual size. What makes it self-repairing is a special type of chemical bond occurring between a charged ion and a dipole-containing neutral molecule. This ion-dipole interaction comes into play whenever there’s a structural disruption, as a result of a scratch or a cut.
When that happens, the ions and the polar molecules are brought together by attractive forces, causing the material to mend itself within a short period of time. Speaking about the research, which marks the first time that scientists have successfully built a self-healing substance that is also electrically conductive, Wang added:
Self-healing materials may seem far away for real application, but I believe they will come out very soon with cell phones. Within three years, more self-healing products will go to market and change our everyday life. It will make our cell phones achieve much better performance than what they can achieve right now.
To test its efficacy, the team split the material into two, and came back 24 hours later to find the two halves miraculously stitched back together. Unlike similar products already present in the market, the ability to conduct electricity allows the new substance to be used in smartphone displays, electric cars as well as lithium-ion batteries. This is because a touchscreen features a set of electrodes that relies on the user’s touch to complete the circuit, which as we all know is essential for its functioning.
If things go according to plan, Wang believes the technology will be available to the public by 2020.The findings of the research were recently published in the Advanced Material journal. Wang went on to say:
Creating a material with all these properties has been a puzzle for years. We did that and now are just beginning to explore the applications.