Are the days of cracked phone screens behind us? Since the introduction of the sleek and touchscreen display equipped smartphones, we have all feared that final and fatal drop that will cover our screens in unsightly cracks. However, this fear may be a thing of the past as Japanese researchers claim to have developed an innovative type of glass that will heal itself from any cracks or breaks.
Published in Science, a peer-reviewed academic journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Professor Takuzo Aida from the University of Tokyo, discusses the “healable glass” that could potentially be used in phone screens and other fragile mobile devices, such as tablets.
Made from a lightweight polymer called ”polyether-thioureas,” the Aida say this new type of glass can heal cracks when pressed together by hand without the need for high heat to melt the material. Using methods from self-healing rubber and plastics that have already been developed, Aida claims that the new material is the first hard substance of its kind that can be healed at room temperature.
Other researchers at the University of Tokyo comment, “High mechanical robustness and healing ability tend to be mutually exclusive. In most cases, heating to high temperatures, on the order of 120 degrees celsius or more, to recognize their cross-linked networks, is necessary for the fractured portions to repair. The new polymer glass is highly robust mechanically yet can readily be repaired by compression at fractured surfaces.”
This innovative glass was actually discovered by accident by graduate school student Yu Yanagisawa, who was preparing the material as a glue-like substance. Yanagisawa found that when the surface of the polymer was cut, the edges would adhere to each other and essentially heal to form a strong sheet after being manually compressed for 30 seconds at 21 degrees celsius. Upon this discovery, Yanagisawa began to experiment with the material and found that the healed material regained its original strength after a couple of hours.
This is not the first time that a polymer has been suggested as a healable screen for devices. Researchers the University of California proposed the use of polymer that could stretch up to 50 times its original size and heal breaks within 24 hours. And in 2015, South Korean electronic conglomerate LG, produced the G Flex 2 that sported a coating on polymer on its back that was capable of healing minor scratches over time.
According to Science magazine, one of the biggest issues most mobile phone users are living with is a smashed display, alongside poor battery life. Therefore, this advanced and innovative glass would be a highly anticipated feature among many mobile phone users.