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University researchers create self-repairing plastics

Posted: , by Scott H.

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University researchers create self-repairing plastics
Thanks to a materials-science breakthrough, it may not be long before your smartphone or tablet can heal itself. Researchers at the University of Southern Mississippi have created a plastic that marks itself red when it is damaged, and then heals itself when exposed to changes in light, temperature, or pH.

The new breed of plastics has advantages over previous self-healing materials – perhaps the biggest one is that the new plastic can heal itself in the same location more than once. So if you’re the type who is always dropping your phone on the same corner, your phone would be able to repair the damage each time.

The scientists created a series of molecular bridges that hold together the long hydrocarbon chains that plastic is made of. When you scratch or crack the plastic those bridges get broken and change shape. The changed shape leads to a visible color-change in the damaged area (red, in this case), and exposure to visible light causes the molecular links to reform (chemistry types: the bridges change conformation and bond back together).

The research has plenty of non-mobile implications, from aircraft bodies that could warn when they are damaged, to automobiles that could repair themselves after minor accidents. The U.S. Department of Defense was one of the funding bodies, so clearly there are military applications.

We don’t know how expensive it will be to manufacture, nor how long it will be before self-healing plastic makes its way into retail smartphones; still a future with mobile devices that repair their cases by themselves is certainly worth looking forward to. When this finally makes it to market, plastic may wind up being considered a premium build material after all.

source: EurekaAlert via The Verge

16 Comments
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posted on 27 Mar 2012, 16:11 2

1. ddxmms (Posts: 141; Member since: 09 Feb 2012)


sorry,,to complicated :P

posted on 27 Mar 2012, 17:33

5. TOYMAN (Posts: 29; Member since: 23 Feb 2012)


Really!!!!!! LOL

posted on 27 Mar 2012, 17:52

6. LoneShaolin (Posts: 307; Member since: 14 Jan 2012)


REALLY?! How much more dumbed down does it need to be for you to get it ddxmms?

posted on 28 Mar 2012, 13:01

14. ddxmms (Posts: 141; Member since: 09 Feb 2012)


get what exactly..?

posted on 27 Mar 2012, 16:14 1

2. Virile (Posts: 38; Member since: 01 Mar 2012)


Would like to see what other types of products this could be used for.
Though with that said how long until machines take over the world

posted on 27 Mar 2012, 16:25 7

3. andro. (Posts: 1935; Member since: 16 Sep 2011)


Plastic is an advanced material and can be processed further to the abilities mentioned above. Its currently a very durable,lightweight,slim material,easily malleable into desired phone shapes,cost effective and very good generally for mobile reception.

Despite claims that plastic is a 'crap' material for phones there are many many phones available which use plastic in a way that it has a luxury feel and touch as well as making the phone have a solid premium build,there are some cheap budget versions about also which ifans jump the 'plastic phone' bandwagon on.However If plastic can evolve to the self repairing level do we dare even think there might be a plastic iphone some day?!! The irony would be hilarious

posted on 27 Mar 2012, 19:04

8. Lucas777 (Posts: 2121; Member since: 06 Jan 2011)


first off i dont think anybody condemns plastic phones-- if they are cheap and break easily then ya, but i dont think ios users are saying that as most dont like the glass panel on the ip.. me included...

and it seems like this type of plastic would be somewhat susceptible to melting if it just takes the kinetic energy from light to reform the bonds... but then again there isnt really a heat-proof plastic so...

posted on 27 Mar 2012, 19:14 2

9. jan25 (Posts: 383; Member since: 26 Feb 2012)


i think for most phones out there, a case is inevitable. whether it is plastic or any kind of metal, when that phone falls, i want to make sure the screen doesn't absorb the shock so it doesn't shatter. i personally don't want to pay 300$ or so for repairment. so in many cases, and especially in the case of our beloved ifans, many don't get to enjoy the premium feel of their devices simply because of how fragile and pricy their devices are.

posted on 27 Mar 2012, 17:03 1

4. skymitch89 (Posts: 1015; Member since: 05 Nov 2010)


This is fairly cool, but I don't see it coming on devices anytime soon and when it does, it might be on the more high-end devices. I would like to see this used more on screens than on the body of the devices (get a scratch, have it heal itself). If that were to happen, then there wouldn't really be a need for screen protectors; and I wouldn't have to go around town trying to find universal screen protectors.

posted on 27 Mar 2012, 18:57

7. twens (Posts: 515; Member since: 25 Feb 2012)


To correct you. It is only the iPhone 4,4s that don't use plastic.the 3G and 3GS were all made of cheap plastic too.

posted on 27 Mar 2012, 20:07 1

10. GERARD_D (Posts: 1; Member since: 27 Mar 2012)


i found a test video online of the students trying out the new self-healing plastic, looks pretty cool
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7V7OgZHhLbY

posted on 27 Mar 2012, 20:56 1

11. AdamW33 (Posts: 39; Member since: 25 Aug 2011)


Is this Cylon technology?

posted on 28 Mar 2012, 00:15

12. phatride4ever (Posts: 32; Member since: 01 Mar 2012)


So I am assuming this material has no machinability.......
It would seem the plastic would want to heal itself after being machined. Just a thought.

posted on 28 Mar 2012, 03:02 1

13. Bluesky02 (Posts: 1439; Member since: 05 Dec 2011)


Now we just need anti gravity cars

posted on 28 Mar 2012, 15:31 1

15. lukasound (Posts: 150; Member since: 16 Nov 2011)


if case manufacturers have a strong enogh loby, this will never see the light of day

posted on 29 Mar 2012, 09:42

16. phatride4ever (Posts: 32; Member since: 01 Mar 2012)


Highly disagree, cell phone manufacturers would adopt this technology and they're are much larger than case manufacturers. There its too much competition between the cell phone manufacturers for this to lobbied out.

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