There’s a huge market for smartphone cases as we all strive to protect our expensive handsets. It would be much nicer to just slide them into a pocket unprotected, but the thought of scratches on the screen ultimately push many of us to hide them inside a case, or at the very least apply a screen protector.
By the end of the decade, though, smartphone cases may be assigned to the history books. According to Business Insider, chemists at the University of California at Riverside have developed a self-healing material that’s suitable for use as a smartphone display — or any display, for that matter.
The key to any self-healing material is molecules that attract each other, which in turn allows any breakage of the perfect bond to stitch itself back together. This new material the UC Riverside chemists, led by Chao Wang, developed is a combination of a stretchable polymer and ionic salt featuring “a special type of bond called an ion-dipole interaction.
That interaction is what forms a strong attraction between the molecules, meaning it can recover from any damage, including a complete break. Snap this material in half and it will stitch itself back together in less than a day. It can also be stretched up to 50 times its original size. The other important feature of the material is its ability to conduct electricity making it suitable for use as part of a touch screen.
Wang believes his stretchable polymer will be used by smartphone manufacturers by 2020. It can be used for the display, but also the phone housing, meaning we could and should get smartphones that can self-heal any damage on their outer shell.
Now we just have to hope a company such as Apple or Samsung doesn’t buy up the patents for this polymer and keep the self-healing material exclusively for their devices.
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