Scientists create self-healing screen material for smartphones

Scratches, cracks and breaks may soon be a thing of the past

Earlier this week, my phone fell and the entire screen was smashed into smithereens.

I was faced with two options; deal with a broken phone or pay to have it repaired. Scientists at the University of California have developed a third option, however, that could save heartache and money. Their invention is a phone screen material that can heal itself. 

The material is made of a stretchable polymer and an ionic salt. There is a special type of bond within the material called an ion-dipole interaction. This is a force between charged ions and polar molecules. 

In plain English: when the material breaks, the two sides of the tear attract each other and the tear heals. 

Credit: Wang lab 

The team of researchers has carried out a number of tests on the material, varying from cuts and scratches to ripping a sheet of the material in half. They found that the material had stitched itself back together in under 24 hours. 

Chao Wang, the chemist leading the research has said this type of material is ideal for smartphone screens as it has the ability to conduct electricity. Wang predicts that this self-healing material will be used on phones by 2020.   

"Self-healing materials may seem far away for real application, but I believe they will come out very soon with smartphones," he said. "Within three years, more self-healing products will go to market and change our everyday life."

 The team will present its research at a Tuesday meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific organisation devoted to the study of chemistry.