Scientists develop self healing polymer glass

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The discovery happened, as many great discoveries do, by accident.

"High mechanical robustness and healing ability tend to be mutually exclusive", wrote the researchers, saying that while some hard but healable materials have 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 fix".

The discovery could be a boon for consumers who are forced to walk around with broken screens on their phones, provided companies decide to use it in their designs. The new "glass", polyether-thioureas, was discovered as the researchers were testing new adhesives. He claims that the glass could eventually be used on smartphone screens and similar devices.

Yu Yanagisawa, a graduate student at the University of Tokyo, inadvertently solved a problem that had dogged his peers for decades when he was preparing a binding agent from a polymer known as TUEG3.

Glass made from a new semitransparent polymer developed by Japanese researchers can easily be repaired by compressing the fractured portions for several hours at normal temperature. When pressed with slight pressure by hand at 21 degrees Celsius, the cut polymers formed a strong sheet.

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As phone manufacturers race to implement the latest technologies into their handsets, it seems that self-repairing screens could eventually become the must-have mobile feature. The material apparently regains its original strength in only a matter of hours.

"High mechanical robustness and healing ability tend to be mutually exclusive", the researchers in a report published in Science magazine and ResearchGate.

"I hope the repairable glass becomes a new environment-friendly material that avoids the need to be thrown away if broken", he said.

Late last week NHK reported that a research group at the University of Tokyo discovered an interesting new glass material that can be repaired with a little pressure applied, even at room temperature.

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