A group of Japanese scientists have made an accidental discovery that could have a huge impact on smartphones and other gadgets in the future. The scientists developed a new type of glass that can self-heal, fusing itself back together when it cracks. This could mean the end to shattered smartphone screens and costly repairs. The discovery was made at the University of Tokyo while the scientists were studying new adhesives. Though this isn't the first claim of self-healing materials for phones, this new breakthrough material does seem to have significant merit.
One of the scientists on the team noticed while he was studying a polymer for its usefulness as a glue that it had the ability to adhere to itself when cut. The researcher then compressed and held the cut polymer together for 30-seconds at room temperate and found the material could heal itself. Multiple follow-up tests were performance by graduate student Yu Yanagisawa, and the self-healing properties were found to work consistently.
The low weight polymer that is key to the self-healing glass is called polyether-thiourea, and it contains a compound that increases the ability of hydrogen bonding when it is cut or broken. What sets this newly discovered material apart from other similar materials with self-healing properties is that the new material is structurally robust like standard glass.
Another unique aspect is that the self-healing glass functions at room temperature; other self-healing materials require heating to perform their bonding behavior. The new material is also able to repair itself faster than other materials out there. An American team invented a similar self-healing glass material, but it needed an entire day to fix cracks while the Japanese material needs only seconds.
"I hope the repairable glass becomes a new environment-friendly material that avoids the need to be thrown away if broken," Yanagisawa said.