Tech

Yes, this gel can fix a smashed phone screen

By Kitty Knowles 14 July 2017
How to fix a smashed phone screen. Pic: Getty/JaaakWorks
Summary

Hallelujah to the smartphone screen gods.

Blundering butterfingered texters unite! There’s hope on the horizon for your eternally smashed phone screen.

There’s a new gel that’s been developed that fixes your cracked screen, it lets it ‘heal’ itself.

Hallelujah!

Self-healing gel

Described as toothpaste-like in texture, Australian researchers have created a 3D-printed gel-like ‘ink’ that can repair your phone screen like a living tissue.

“Self-healing materials are capable of recovering from damages and restoring their functionality, just like the natural ability of living creatures to repair their tissues,” explains the team in journal, Molecular Systems Design & Engineering.

And lead scientist Luke Connal, of the University of Melbourne School of Engineering, says the findings could revolutionise manufacturing.

“After printing, these objects can heal a crack or even a cut and regain their original strength,” he explains.

“Potentially as coatings for mobile phones.”

How it works

The gel in question is made from a polymer often used in contact lenses. Its healing process is based on what’s called ‘dynamic covalent chemistry’ – meaning its chemical bonds can be formed, broken, and reformed.

“We have instilled chemistry which is dynamic into this polymer,” explains Connal.

“This means it strengthens the gel, but on a stimulus (for example a change in acidity) we can weaken the gel. And we reverse this—enabling healing of cracks in the material,” he says.

Connal calls the process a ‘4D’ one because the material can change shape over time.

Coming to a smartphone near you

The goal is to develop selective coatings for high-end products that are subject to stress – like your smartphone, or your car.

Ultimately, if your phone’s special coating gets cracked, slight heating or exposure to humidity would activate the self-healing properties.

The team are now working on ensuring their gel can integrate with touch screen, but phone covers could already feasibly be made today.

And the same special gel could be developed for a number of other applications.

Giving it chameleon colour-change abilities means it could be used in army camouflage, for example.

The days of shamefully carrying a smashed phone screen are numbered.

Thank you so much science!