Self-healing materials are so widespread that clothes lines and tech companies are already applying them to different products. Now, a research team at the University of California, Riverside, has developed a new type of self-healing material that is conductive of electricity, highly elastic, and almost entirely transparent. The lead researcher has revealed that he drew inspiration from Marvel's Wolverine character.
Soon, your phone's cracked screen may have its own healing factor. Scientists from the Department of Chemistry at the University of California, Riverside have developed a self-healing material that has potential applications for phone screens, artificial muscles, and more. In late 2013, the LG G Flex came out with a self-healing back that automatically repaired scratches and other wear and tear in a matter of minutes. The Flex's material was non-conductive, so it couldn't be used on screens. This new material is "transparent, self-healing, highly stretchable material that can be electrically activated and could be used to improve batteries, electronic devices, and robots," according to a blog post from UC Riverside.
The main challenge facing researchers led by Professor Qing Wang, was ensuring that self-healing electronics could restore "a suite of functions". The example used explains how a component may still retain electrical resistance, but lose the ability to conduct heat, risking overheating in a hypothetical wearable, which is never good. The nano-composite material they came up with was mechanically strong, resistant against electronic surges, thermal conductivity and whilst packing insulating properties. Despite being cut it in half, reconnecting the two parts together and healing at a higher temperature almost completely heals where the cut was made. The thin strip of material could also hold up to 200 grams of weight after recovering.
If you're accident prone, or have children who like to play with your gadgets, chances are your phone is covered in scratches and nicks. While many cases and screen protectors are designed to reduce the amount of damage, a Taiwanese firm has created a range that is not only super durable, it can even'heal' itself. Innerexile's technology uses microcapsules filled with a glue-like liquid that automatically fills in the gaps created by the scratch. Innerexile's screen protector (pictured) uses microcapsules filled with a glue-like liquid that automatically fills in the gaps created by the scratch. It is 0.2mm thick and can withstand scratches from a bronze brush The firm makes screen protectors and cases for the iPhone 6 and 6s range, including the iPhone 6 Plus and 6s Plus.
The long-term persistence of many synthetic materials and the resulting impact on the environment has made clear the importance of developing new routes to creating sustainable materials (1). This is especially true for man-made polymers, for which slow (or lack of) degradation is widely problematic, from plastic wastes generated by commodity packaging to high-tech electronics. Despite threats to human health, wildlife, oceans, and landfills, the fraction of polymeric materials that are recycled remains low. Polymers designed to degrade after their intended use represent a promising, chemistry-driven approach to minimize the impact of persistent, petroleum-derived materials (2). An alternative strategy for preparing sustainable materials is to design polymers that have even longer life spans and, as a result, need to be replaced less frequently.