Stretch­able, Self- Heal­ing Smart­phone Screen

Technowize Magazine - - Front Page -

A new break­through in “self-heal­ing” ma­te­ri­als has sci­en­tists look­ing for­ward to a fu­ture in which smart­phone screens and bat­ter­ies within can re­pair them­selves.

De­vel­oped by re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia River­side, the new ma­te­rial is made up of a stretch­able poly­mer and an ionic salt, mak­ing it ca­pa­ble of con­duct­ing elec­tric­ity and self-heal be­yond the daily wear and tear. The re­gen­er­a­tive ma­te­rial can stitch it­self back to­gether within 24 hours af­ter be­ing torn apart, with its charged ions and po­lar mol­e­cules at­tract­ing and align­ing to com­plete the re­pair.

Re­searchers have modeled off the ar­chi­tec­ture of the hu­man vas­cu­lar sys­tem that pro­vides ef­fi­cient and repet­i­tive de­liv­ery of heal­ing agents. The beauty of the hu­man vas­cu­la­ture is, we don’t have to probe the cut or scratch and re­pair it our­selves. The hu­man cir­cu­la­tory sys­tem, a 3D mi­cro-vas­cu­lar net­work au­to­mat­i­cally re­leases skin heal­ing agents into the crack plane to help re­pair the dam­age.

The poly­mer chains are con­nected to each other by the ion-dipole bonds be­tween the poly­mer po­lar groups and the ionic salt. As a re­sult, the re­gen­er­a­tive ma­te­rial can stretch up to fifty times its orig­i­nal size, which means that the scuffs don’t have to be per­ma­nent.

“A self-heal­ing ma­te­rial, when carved in two parts, can go back to­gether like noth­ing has hap­pened, just like hu­man skin,” said Chao

wang, the Lead re­searcher be­hind the cre­ation.

Lead re­searcher Chao wang be­lieves the stretch­able poly­mer will be used by ma­jor smart­phone and other con­sumer prod­ucts man­u­fac­tur­ers by 2020. Presently, the pro­tec­tive cases mar­ket ac­counts for 20.5% share in the global mo­bile phone ac­ces­sories mar­ket, and is an­tic­i­pated to ex­pand at a CAGR of 5.9% till the end of 2025. while Go­rilla Glass is the screen ma­te­rial of choice for most high-end smart­phones right now, it’s ex­tremely prone to shat­ter­ing on im­pact. wang’s self-heal­ing poly­meric ma­te­rial may ini­tially cost more than tra­di­tional smart­phone cases, over a life­time it can pay for it­self with re­duc­tions in re­pair costs.

Some smart­phones are al­ready fit­ted with sim­i­lar tech­nol­ogy on their cases, such as the LG G Flex. The re­gen­er­at­ing ma­te­rial gives bet­ter pro­tec­tion from daily wear and tear than tra­di­tional phone UV coat­ing. But wang’s at­tempt marks the first in­stance of a re­gen­er­at­ing ma­te­rial that can con­duct elec­tric­ity, mean­ing it could be used for phone screens.

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