Can you imagine a world where you can drop your phone and not have the sheer dread of panic at the thought of a cracked screen?
Wonderful, isn’t it? And I’m saying that as somebody whose phone screen is currently shattered to pieces.
This dream might actually become a reality because Japanese researchers claim they’ve developed a ‘new type of glass’ which can heal itself when smashed.
You read correctly, self-healing glass. Amazing.
This amazing invention, can you believe, was invented by accident!
According to The Guardian, this glass is made from a ‘low weight polymer’ called polyether-thioureas – and can heal breaks when pressed together by hand, without the need for a high heat to melt the material.
The research was published in Science and was led by Professor Takuzo Aida from the University of Tokyo.
It said healable glass could potentially be used in phone screens and ‘other fragile devices’, such as tablets and computer screens, which they say are an important challenge for ‘sustainable societies’.
Researchers said the new material was the ‘first hard substance of its kind that can be healed at room temperature’, stating:
High mechanical robustness and healing ability tend to be mutually exclusive.
The researchers also said while some ‘hard but healable materials’ had been developed, ‘in most cases, heating to high temperatures, on the order of 120°C or more, to reorganise their cross-linked networks, is necessary for the fractured portions to repair’.
Properties of the glass were discovered by accident by graduate school student Yu Yanagisawa, who was actually preparing the material as a glue.
Yanagisawa found when the surface of the polymer was cut, the edges would stick to each other, healing to form a strong sheet after being manually compressed for 30 seconds at 21°C.
Further experiments found the healed material regained its original strength after only a couple of hours.
Yanagisawa told NHK he didn’t believe the results at first and repeated the experiments a number of times to try and confirm it, saying:
I hope the repairable glass becomes a new environment-friendly material that avoids the need to be thrown away if broken.
This is not the first time a polymer has been suggested as a healable screen for devices such as smartphones.
Researchers at the University of California proposed the use of polymer could stretch to 50 times its original size and heal breaks within 24 hours.
According to research commissioned by repair firm iMend in 2015, over 21 per cent of people with smartphones in the UK were living with a broken screen, with smashed displays being one of the biggest issues alongside poor battery life.
Another study found we may be subconsciously breaking, losing or abandoning our phones to keep up with the never-ending cycle of newer and shinier smartphones.
This is called the ‘Upgrade Effect’ – and although it might sound crazy, findings published by the Columbia Business School in the American Marketing Association earlier this month state otherwise.
According to the study, even when we think we are taking care of our prized iPhones, we’re actually much more likely to neglect – or even deliberately damage – our mobiles if there’s a better version of the product available or an upgrade on the horizon.
Furthermore, an online survey of 602 mobile phone owners showed, the availability of an upgrade would lead to product neglect in many cases, subconsciously or otherwise, as we all flock like lemmings to have the best phone on the market.
Best get my phone upgraded then…