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Broken phone screen? New healing glass could fix it fast

Most glass will break or crack. It is one of the drawbacks of using it in products such as mobile phones, with drop tests usually being a measuring standard. Now imagine glass that could fix itself if it was ever damaged. Apparently, that has become a reality, thanks to Japanese researchers.

A group led by Professor Takuzo Aida of the University of Tokyo has come up with a glass made from “polyether-thioureas,” a low-weight polymer, that can heal itself just by a press of the hand. Normally fixing glass requires high heat, but the discovery allows it to be done at room temperature.

“High mechanical robustness and healing ability tend to be mutually exclusive,” the researchers in a report published in Science magazine and ResearchGate. They acknowledge that hard healable materials had been created before, but “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 discovery actually happened by accident. As grad student Yu Yanagisawa was preparing to use the polymer as a glue, he found that edges that had been cut would start to bind with each other, forming a sheet with only mild compression in about 30 seconds. After a few hours, the glass sheet was again at its original strength with no blemishes at all.

Yanagisawa said repeated the test several times, not fully believing what he had stumbled upon. But each time the results were the same.

“I hope the repairable glass becomes a new environment-friendly material that avoids the need to be thrown away if broken,” he told NHK.

The discovery could be a boon for consumers who are forced to walk around with broken screens on their phones, provided companies decide to use it in their designs. Repairs and warranties bring in extra cash for these manufacturers, and eliminating one of the biggest problems just might not make it prudent to offer it as a feature, short of increasing the price of the phone to compensate.

Source and image: The Guardian

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