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Self-healing smartphone screens are coming to end your cracked screen nightmare

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There’s probably no more annoying feeling in the world than the first crack on the screen of a new smartphone. You can get them repaired, but it’ll usually cost upwards of a hundred quid and take weeks before you can see it again.

But some frankly incredible research from one polymer scientist means screen cracks might end up as a thing of the past by the time 2020 rolls around.

Dr Chao Wang, from the University of California at Riverside, claims to have invented a material that can be used in phone screens – and which can heal itself, even from big cracks. In fact, even when torn in half, the material is able to reattach to itself within 24 hours.

Phone screen

Image: Wang Labs

He told Business Insider: “The material, which can stretch to 50 times its original size, is made of a stretchable polymer and an ionic salt. It features a special type of bond called an ion-dipole interaction, which is a force between charged ions and polar molecules. This means that when the material breaks or has a scratch, the ions and molecules attract to each other to heal the material.”

The key to this new material is the fact that it can conduct electricity – it’s electric signals from your fingers that are what let you interact with a phone screen in the first place. And Dr Wang reckons his material will be in consumer phones as early as 2020 – possibly putting thousands of dubious phone repair booths out of business across the country.

“Self-healing materials may seem far away for real application, but I believe they will come out very soon with cell phones. Within three years, more self-healing products will go to market and change our everyday life,” he said. “It will make our cell phones achieve much better performance than what they can achieve right now.”

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