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This Self-Healing Glass Could Fix Your Phone Woes

Soon enough, you could drop your phone, find a cracked screen, and miraculously watch as it self-heals its way back to its original state.

Image: Pierre Oliver/Shutterstock

Image: Pierre Oliver/Shutterstock


Japanese researchers led by Professor Takuzo Aida at the University of Tokyo have created a new glass technology that would help a display automatically heal itself when it's cracked or breaks.

The technology is glass made from a polymer called "polyether-thioureas." After a screen is damaged, you'd need only to push the glass together by hand and your screen will go back to its place.

According to the researchers, whose work was earlier reported on by The Guardian, the technology could find its way to smartphones. It might also be useful for smaller devices with glass screens that can break easily. The researchers were also quick to note that this is the first time glass can be fixed at room temperature. Typically, glass breaks can only be addressed at high heat to melt two parts and meld them together.

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"In most cases, heating to high temperatures, on the order of 120°C or more, to reorganize their cross-linked networks, is necessary for the fractured portions to repair,” the researchers wrote. The glass they created, however, only needs some human pressure.

Interestingly, the technology was discovered by accident, when a student was working on a glue. The researchers quickly discovered the finding could be used in displays and decided to work more on it to see how useful it could be in the real world. After several experiments, the researchers ultimately discovered the method could work.

Still, there is a caveat. If you break your screen and need to repair it, the display won't immediately go back to its former strength. Instead, the researchers say that it usually takes about two hours for the polymer to fully repair itself and regain its original strength. 

But even if you have to wait a bit, it's certainly better than being forced to go to the Apple Store to get your iPhone screen repaired.