A new self-healing polymeric material can create nearly indestructible smartphones that can repair themselves.
What inspired this new creation? Who else but Marvel's Wolverine from X-Men, who has the ability to heal himself?
Gone are the days of phones we can drop without worrying much about cracks and breaks. Our smartphones are all cool and multi-functional, but they break so easily. Seeing a web of cracks on your nice sleek phone can't be fun.
Thus, scientists thought to put this problem to rest once and for all. The polymeric material they created is transparent, stretchable, and has conductive ions that can fuse the pieces of broken smartphones. Dr. Chao Wang, one of the creators, likens this healing ability to the healing ability of skin. Two separate pieces of the material can “heal” and form one whole piece again.
Chemical bonding is the secret to creating a self-healing material that can create virtually indestructible smartphones. If you remember your high school chemistry classes, there are two bonds that exist in materials: covalent and non-covalent. The problem, however, is that covalent bonds are difficult to repair once they break. Non-covalent bonds, meanwhile, are weak.
The researchers therefore came up with a new type of bond that they call ion-dipole interaction. This kind of force turned out to work well for ionic conductors.
The effectiveness of the design hinged on the use of a polar and stretchable polymer as well as ionic salt. The material this design created is conductive and very flexible. It can stretch up to 50 times its size, and two torn pieces car repair itself back in just a day.
These characteristics are pretty impressive by themselves, but they still need some work and some improvements. Since other self-healing polymers don't handle humidity well, the researchers are planning on making the material suitable even in very humid environments. They're also making a few tweaks on the material to get it ready for actual use. There's also a need for further study on how much pressure the material needs in order to bond back together.
Fortunately, creating this material is also inexpensive. The materials necessary for creating the polymer are widely available, so large-scale production may be relatively simple. Even so, the researchers say that they still have a lot of work to do before the polymer becomes usable.
So imagine not having to have a small heart attack every time your phone slips from your hand. Indestructible smartphones won't crack, shatter, or break completely when they make unfortunate contact with the floor.
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