New self-healing polymer to make for robust display material

Whether you are buying the ultra expensive iPhone X or the most affordable and basic smartphones from various local brands, the primary concern common to all of them is protecting the display from damage. Despite sporting scratch resistant and shockproof glass layers on today’s smartphone displays, a simple drop on a concrete surface while walking chips the glass, shattering your heart along with it as well. However, research has led to the discovery of a new polymer that can heal itself, making it ideal for use in manufacturing displays.

A team of researchers led by Professor Takuzo Aida from the University of Tokyo has termed the unique hard glass-like polymer called “polyether-thioureas”. The material is “mechanically robust, readily repairable polymers and has a tailored non-covalent cross-linking.” The material heals with pressure applied from hand in room temperature conditions.


“High mechanical robustness and healing ability tend to be mutually exclusive,” said researchers in the journal. “In most cases, heating to high temperatures, on the order of 120 degrees Celsius or more, to reorganise their cross-linked networks is necessary for the fractured portions to repair.”

This new polymer was accidentally discovered by a graduate student, called Yu Yanagisawa, who assumed the material to become a kind of glue. However, he found that the cut edges of the polymer would stick together and form a strong sheet after getting a considerable amount of stress from human hands at room temperatures.

It will be a while before this material is ready for commercial rollout. However, the mass application of this polymer is still massively dependent upon user preference — Motorola already has a shatterproof solution for its flagship smartphone but consumers prefer the more brittle yet premium Gorilla Glass covered flagships. If the scientists, as well as the OEMs, manage to make the polymer as good looking as highly-polished Gorilla Glass layer,…

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