Today’s Solutions: January 19, 2022

From a simple cosmetic issue to a completely shattered display, most of us have experienced a broken phone screen at least once. Well, cracked screens might soon become a thing of the past thanks to a team of scientists in India who have developed a self-healing crystalline material that can repair itself if it breaks.

Coming from researchers at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Kolkata, the new study represents a breakthrough in our current efforts to develop materials that can heal themselves. Most of these types of materials that have been developed so far are soft and opaque, making them unsuitable for rugged applications.

With that in mind, the researchers at IISER decided to come up with a solution by focusing on developing something that is more durable than conventional self-healing materials. As part of the new study, the team used a piezoelectric organic material, which converts mechanical energy to electrical energy, to make needle-shaped crystals that are no longer than 2mm in length or 0.2 mm in width.

As explained by Interesting Engineering, thanks to their molecular arrangement, the specially designed crystals develop a strong attractive force between two surfaces. Every time a fracture occurs, the attractive forces reassemble the broken pieces back to the original form, without requiring an external stimulus, such as heat, that conventional self-healing materials typically need.

“Our self-healing material is 10 times harder than others, and it has a well-ordered internal crystalline structure, that is favored in most electronics and optical applications,” said lead study author Professor Chilla Malla Reddy.

The researchers envision the material to potentially be used in everyday electronics, including mobile phone screens that could repair themselves when damaged.

Study source: Science — Autonomous self-repair in piezoelectric molecular crystals

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