Self-Healing Gel Could Protect Phone Screens

Credit: U. Melbourne

Melbourne University researchers are working on a self-healing gel that could mean cracked phone screens could repair themselves.

The gel is made from poly(hydroxyl ethyl methacrylate), which is one of the key materials used to create contact lenses. The researchers have manipulated it such that it is normally firm, but can flow more like a liquid when pressure is applied. According to the researchers, that works by forming, breaking and reforming the chemical bonds.

If things went perfectly, the material could be used as a coating such that any pressure that caused stress or cracks would also trigger the material flowing to fill the gap. However, the researchers are also exploring ways of having the material “self-heal” when exposed to heat or moisture.

A thin coating on top of phone screens would be an ideal use. Making the gel transparent may be viable, but the unresolved problem is how to make it compatible with touchscreen functions. The researchers are also looking at whether the coating could be used on car bodywork to overcome scratches.

The gel could also work with 3D printers and the researchers say they are exploring how manipulating the gel could make it change color.

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