Could This Self-Healing Glass Spell the End of Cracked Phone Screens?

Broken screens come second only to battery malfunctions when it comes to the most annoying parts of being a phone owner. For quite some time now, solutions to cracked phone screens have often taken the form of preventative measures as opposed to restorative ones. Phones will continue to include stronger and stronger glass materials capable of handling multiple instances of trauma. In fact, not too long ago, Corning unveiled their new Gorilla Glass 6, an even more durable substance capable of surviving multiple drops from greater heights. And as exciting as that may be, the fact still remains that even Gorilla Glass 6 can and will crack if subjected to a clumsy enough owner. But what if developers moved away from preventative measures and instead focused on restorative ones? Well, after accidentally discovering a self-healing glass material, chemistry researcher Yu Yanagisawa of University of Tokyo might have just opened the avenue to further experimentation in that field!

How it Happened

One of the more interesting facets of this story is that the miraculously regenerating glass was discovered entirely by accident! Yu Yanagisawa’s original objective was to create an adhesive material, but his focus quickly shifted once he realized he came up with a new type of resin glass. One that could be repaired with no trace of damage simply by applying a little pressure to two broken pieces at room temperature. Even more impressively, he also found that the material regained its original strength after being left alone for a few hours. The secret lies in a special hydrogen-bond pattern present in the glass that makes its edges self-adhesive. Effectively, it offers the same protection as traditional glass while ditching the irreparability that plagues all phone users across the globe. 

What Does This Mean for Tech and Hardware?

The polymer Yanagisawa discovered, called polyether-thioureas, isn’t the first material to  exhibit self-healing properties. In fact, a few researchers have already broken ground on materials like self-repairing plastic, rubber, and even concrete. However, Yanagisawa’s discovery is the first hard material whose restorative ability can take place at room temperature, making it incredibly exciting for the future of phone and appliance development.

Surveys find that 50% of phone users have experienced cracking their phone screens in their lifetime! That stat alone goes to show just how revolutionary Yanagisawa’s findings can be if they’re capable of being applied to the phone industry! Fortunately, ripples have already begun to surface as we see companies like Motorola patenting displays that can heal their own cracks with heat. As if that prospect wasn’t exciting enough, the researchers responsible for the material’s finding also express their hopes that this glass becomes an environmentally healthy material that cuts the need to toss phones away if broken.

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While exciting, the findings from this research are still relatively fresh and require a little more time before they can be brought into the current phone market. Our team, for one, is counting down the days until we can ditch our clunky phone cases and cracked phone art, as beautiful as it can be, becomes a thing of the past!