Dec 21, 2017

Glass that fixes its own cracks discovered in Japan

A chance discovery may solve the problem of smashed smartphone screens in the future as academic researchers in Japan have found a glass-like polymer called "polyether-thioureas" which has the unique property of repairing itself. The broken edges of the glass can fuse together with a slight pressure from our hands applied at room temperature.

Researchers at the University of Tokyo in Japan has stumbled upon a unique glass that has the ability to repair its own cracks. The accidental discovery came through when the team at the university were researching new kinds of adhesives.

The self-healing glass is made from a low weight polymer called "polyether-thioureas", shards of which can be fused together with a mere pressure applied by both the hands at room temperature. Interestingly, no heating or melting is required in this process.

Researchers say the edges of the broken glass can stick together in just 30 seconds at 21 degrees Celsius and afterwards the glass will regain its original shape within a few hours. The new material was first discovered by a Yu Yanagisawa, a graduate student who was preparing a glue of the material when he found its self-repair property.

Self-healing plastic and rubber are already around, but the self-healing glass is the first hard material of its kind to have an auto-repair property working at room temperature.

A wide range of industries could be the beneficiary of this self-healing glass, but one particular industry which will be most benefitted is the smartphone industry. Currently, users have no option but to replace their cracked or broken screens which involves a decent amount of money. The entry of the self-healing glass could solve a major headache for the smartphone users who have so far remained intimidated by a mere idea of an accidental screen damage.

Nevertheless, the smartphone industry is not entirely new to using a self-healing material. Earlier, it was the LG G Flex and the LG G Flex 2, in which a kind of self-healing plastic capable of repairing light scratches was used at the rear of the device. But, before this was explored properly the industry had switched over to a metal or a glass back instead of the plastic rear.

That said, we must remind our readers that the self-healing glass is in its nascent stage. Further research is required before making it consumer-ready. So, no instant jubilation, this might take a couple of years.