Self-healing glass could make cracked phone screens just a memory

Smartphones are very fragile devices, especially with the shift to glass-metal-glass sandwiches. Fortunately, parts can be replaced or repaired, but at some cost. One of the most expensive components is the screen, which usually comes with glass fused on top of the actual display panel. Glass might not scratch but it does shatter and crack. This glass from the University of Tokyo does as well, but it also does one thing that no other glass can. It can repair those cracks, at room temperature, and with just a small amount of pressure applied.

It's no Wolverine, but a sheet of glass on your phone that can mend cracks just by squeezing on opposite sides is loads better than the alternative: a $700 repair job. That is exactly what this new type of glass, made from polyether-thioureas, promises. That is if it can be commercialized.

Like some of the greatest discoveries in science, this self-healing glass came by accident. Graduate student Yu Yanagisawa stumbled upon the unique properties when he was attempting to use the polymer as a type of glue. Instead, the material itself became like glued surfaces.

When the glass cracked or was cut, the edges of the cut would still adhere to each other. Pressing the edges manually for 30 seconds at a room temperature of 21 degrees Celsius formed a strong sheet that bridged the gap. After a couple of hours, the material was back to its original strong self.

While there have been attempts at self-healing glass, this is the first time that one healed without the application of intense heat. If this and other experimental materials like it become commercially available, it could help boost the sustainability of smartphones. They could, however, also put some accessory makers out of business.

SOURCE: The Guardian