Technology

Glass which can heal itself discovered accidentally

Researchers were going to use the substance as a glue when they realised its properties.

Researchers have discovered a new material which could pave the way for phones which repair themselves when damaged.

Cracked smartphones are a pain to sort out not least because it can be pricey if you don’t have the right insurance.

Researchers from the University of Tokyo, led by Professor Takuzo Aida, found a new material, a polymer, which can “heal itself” when a small amount of pressure is applied.

As well as signalling potentially cheaper repairs for consumers, it is also a more sustainable material as it won’t have to be replaced as often.

(Mheim3011/Getty Images)
(Mheim3011/Getty Images)

But the discovery was made by accident as graduate school student Yu Yanagisawa was preparing polyether-thioureas as a glue, reported The Guardian.

Yanagisawa found that when the surface of the polymer was cut the edges would adhere to each other, healing to form a strong sheet after being manually compressed for 30 seconds at 21C.

That’s a big difference from other materials which have needed high heat to heal themselves.

Aida believes the healable glass could be used in phone screens and other fragile devices.

Yanagisawa told NHK News: “I hope the repairable glass becomes a new environment-friendly material that avoids the need to be thrown away if broken.”

The glass returns to its original strength after a few hours.

The research has been published in the journal Science.

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