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Self-healing smartphone screens could come from new kind of polymer

/ 02:26 PM December 21, 2017

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Anyone who has dropped their smartphones and cracked the glass know the headache and cost that come with getting it repaired. Scientists working on a new type of polymer may have found the solution to giving smartphone screens the ability to fix themselves.

According to a study published on Science via The Guardian, University of Tokyo researchers are developing a polymer that could self-repair cracks on smartphone screens. All it would need is a little applied pressure from the user’s fingers.

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The scientists call the polymer “polyether-thioureas” and it was discovered accidentally by graduate school student Yu Yanagisawa.

The name’s a bit of a tongue twister so marketing people may need to come up with a catchier nickname should the self-healing screen become commercially available.

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Yu Yanagisawa had been working on materials to use as a glue when he noticed some unusual activity. He saw the surface of the polymer reconnect after being cut. All it needed was some manual compression for around 30 seconds at a room temperature of 21 degrees Celsius. Afterwards the polymer would reform into a clean sheet.

Further tests found the material could regain its former shape in just a couple of hours.

In an interview with Japanese network NHK, Yanagisawa said, “I hope the repairable glass becomes a new environment-friendly material that avoids the need to be thrown away if broken.”

According to the researchers, existing self-healing materials require high temperatures to induce self-repair. However, the polyether-thioureas is the first polymer developed that could self-heal in room temperature.

Apart from saving consumers the trouble of paying for expensive repairs or putting up with a broken phone screen, a self-healing display could also help reduce e-waste from smartphones. Alfred Bayle/JB

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TAGS: cracks, polyether-thioureas, polymer, scratches, self-healing, smartphones
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