BOFFINS HAVE DEVELOPED a new "Wolverine-inspired" self-healing material that could put an end to shattered smartphone displays and exploding batteries.
The material, which was first outed in December and will be presented this week the American Chemical Society, has been developed by chemists at UC Riverside. They claim that the rubber-like conductive material, which is made from a stretchable polymer and an ionic salt, can stretch up to 50 times its usual size, and is able to heal itself "like nothing has happened" even when it is ripped in two.
This is thanks to a special type of bond within the material called an ion-dipole interaction, which "are forces between charged ions and polar molecules that are highly stable under electrochemical conditions."
Lead researcher Dr Chao Wang combined a polar, stretchable polymer with a mobile, high-ionic-strength salt to create the material with the properties the researchers were seeking.
That means, in basic terms, that when the material breaks, the two sides of the tear attract each other and the tear self-heals.
The team of researchers have 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.
Lead researcher Dr Chao Wang has said that this low-cost, self-healing material will likely be used on smartphones by 2020, but also sees it being user to power artificial muscles and robots, and in self-healing lithium-ion batteries.
"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." µ
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