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Researchers create self-healing smartphones

Researchers are working on a self-healing smartphone inspired by Wolverine.

Professor Chao Wang and his team have created a stretchable and self-repairing material, which could be used in smartphones to quickly fix breakages, inspired by the X-Men character's ability to heal himself.

Wang said: "When I was young, my idol was Wolverine from the X-Men. He could save the world, but only because he could heal himself.

"A self-healing material, when carved into two parts, can go back together like nothing has happened, just like our human skin. I've been researching making a self-healing lithium ion battery, so when you drop your cell phone, it could fix itself and last much longer."

The technology works by the inclusion of two types of bonds - covalent bonds and non-covalent bonds - with one set being able to break in order to save the other, meaning the phone can repair itself multiple times.

He added: "The mechanism of the self-healing polymer is that the strong covalent bonds and weaker non-covalent bonds exist in the materials at the same time. When there is a mechanical damage, the weaker non-covalent bonds will break first to protect the strong covalent bonds.

"However, these non-covalent bonds are reversible, which means that they can be broken and recovered many times. When the two ends of the split material touch, the broken bonds re-form. This drives the polymer chains to diffuse through the interfaces. Therefore, the polymers can recover and the mechanical properties can be healed."

The team have been working on the material, which they say could be stretched up to 50 times its normal size, and they have run tests which show the material can reconnect itself again after a day.

Now, researchers are developing a similar material that is more resistant to harsher conditions including humidity.

Professor Wang said: "Previous self-healing polymers haven't worked well in high humidity. Water gets in there and messes things up. It can change the mechanical properties. We are currently tweaking the covalent bonds within the polymer itself to get these materials ready for real-world applications."

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