Ever since cell phones have been alleviated from physical buttons, the chances of the screen getting destroyed during a fall have been multiplied. Even when not completely destroyed, our smartphone screens can take countless of scratches in our pockets, dents, cracks, and in general gradually downgrade our usage experience since the screens slowly but steadily becomes blurry by the damage. Up until now, the only solution was to use hardened glass screen protectors or gorilla glass. This however isn’t ideal as the former can still brake and is aesthetically bad, while the latter costs a lot and is more brittle compared to standard glass. A new solution that was developed by the Researchers at the University of California Riverside involves a new screen made out of a kind of resin that can heal itself!
This new type of resin that was developed in the university’s laboratories can conduct electricity so it can be used in smartphone and tablet “touch-screen” applications, while its operation remains unaffected by high humidity factors that plagued the particular technology in previous versions of the polymer. The idea is that the resin (vinylidene fluoride-co-hexafluoropropylene) is relatively soft, so it will be easily scratched but it is very elastic so it will hardly ever break. Indicatively, it can stretch to up to 50 times its original size without cracking. All scratches and dents are healed automagically within a few hours, while a complete screen crack can be healed within 24 hours at most. This is done by activating an electric interaction on the molecular level (ion-dipole interaction), which holds charged ions and polar molecules together, or brings them back together when they go farther apart due to an external force. This is impressive to say the least, and it has the potential to make using smartphones and tablets far more comfortable and cheap.
The lead chemist of the particular research team believes that the potential of this new resin goes beyond the utilization of it as a smartphone screen, and suggests that even self-healing batteries can be manufactured out of it, extending the longevity of the device in overall. Right now the team is focusing on the chemical performance refinement of their polymer and ionic salt, tweaking the covalent bonds within the polymer to make it hold well against high humidity, and possibly making it suitable and ready for the market by about 2020. The only thing that remains now is to clarify the transparency of this resin and its long-term resistance against moisture. One way or another, destroyed smartphone screens will soon be a thing of the past.