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article imageSelf-healing smartphone screen in development

By Tim Sandle     Apr 5, 2017 in Technology
Imagine you've scratched or broken your smartphone screen. Instead of the inevitable costly repair, what if the screen could repair itself? This is what University of California Riverside scientists have been developing.
The problems associated with cracked or scratched smartphone screens could become a thing of the pat if the new technology can be commercialized. The technology is a new polymer that is capable of healing itself; the polymer can fuse cracks and paper over scratches to the extent that the scratches are no longer visible to the naked eye. While some phones have the ability to self-repair damages to their cases (such as the LG G Flex), the new material offers the prospect of a screen self-repairing for the first time. This is possible through the material being able to repair and to continue to conduct electricity.
The ability of the material - the polymer is poly (vinylidene fluoride-co-hexafluoropropylene - to do this comes down to its stretchability. The material can stretch close to 50 times its original size. This means by flexing scratches disappear. Even more remarkably, for major cracks the material can stitch itself back together again, able to complete a full-repair within 24 hours.
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The key to self-repair is in the chemical bonding. Two types of bonds exist in materials: covalent bonds, which are strong and do not easily reform once broken; and non-covalent bonds, which are weaker and more dynamic. The new material is based on a type of non-covalent bond called an ion-dipole interaction, which describes the force between charged ions and polar molecules.
Explaining this further, lead researcher Chao Wang told The Daily Telegraph: "A self-healing material, when carved in two parts, can go back together like nothing has happened, just like human skin."
The material, formed from a stretchable polymer and ionic salt, could also be used with the manufacture of batteries. A number of projects based around the new material are in development.
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