Luckily, the days of squinting at cracked phone displays like this could soon be over, thanks to a team of Japanese scientists who have developed a new kind of self-healing glass that fuses itself back together, simply by pressure being applied.
During the research, one of the team noticed that the polymer he was examining for use as a glue had the ability to adhere to itself when cut, compressed and held together for 30 seconds at room temperature.
Not trusting the chance result, Yu Yanagisawa, a graduate student in the university’s department of chemistry and biotechnology, ran a series of follow-up experiments to confirm the self-healing glass really did work.
According to the team, the glass is made possible thanks to a low weight polymer called ‘polyether-thiourea’, which makes use of the compound thiourea to increase the ability of hydrogen bonding in the material when it is cut or broken.
It’s not the first time researchers have designed self-healing materials like this, but what sets the new polymer apart is that it’s structurally robust, like glass, but also capable of self-healing – properties that are often mutually exclusive in engineered compounds.
What also makes the glass unique is that it performs its self-adhering function at room temperature, whereas other self-healing materials often require heating to induce their bonding behaviour.
Plus, the material also manages to glue itself back together quicker than other previously developed efforts.