Scientists claim that a new 'self-healing material' they have developed could be used to keep smartphone displays scratch-free, as well as being used to power artificial muscles, among many other applications.
The material was first unveiled in December, but will be presented this week at the American Chemical Society's National Meeting & Exposition.
Developed by chemists at University of California Riverside, they claim that the rubber-like conductive material, made from a stretchable polymer and an ionic salt, can stretch up to 50 times its usual size.
They add that it is able to heal itself "like nothing has happened" - even when it is ripped in two.
This is thanks to a special type of bond within the material called an ion-dipole interaction, which they describe as "forces between charged ions and polar molecules that are highly stable under electrochemical conditions".
Lead researcher Dr Chao Wang combined a polar, stretchable polymer with a mobile, high-ionic-strength salt to create the material with the properties the researchers were seeking.
That means, in basic terms, that when the material breaks, the two sides of the tear attract each other and the tear self-heals.
The team of researchers carried out a number of tests on the material, varying from cuts and scratches to ripping a sheet of the material in half. They claim that the material stitched itself back together in less than 24 hours.
Dr Chao Wang said that this low-cost, self-healing material could be used on smartphones by 2020, but added that he also sees it being user to power artificial muscles and robots, and in self-healing lithium-ion batteries.
"Self-healing materials may seem far away for real application, but I believe they will come out very soon with smartphones," he said.
He added: "Within three years, more self-healing products will go to market and change our everyday life."
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