San Diego Scientists Create Electronics Material That Can Heal Itself
San Diego scientists have created a material that can heal itself after being torn apart.
They say it could be useful for designing new kinds of wearable electronic devices that will need to be both flexible and capable of withstanding long-term wear and tear.
By conforming to a user's body, wearable devices could make it easier to do things like monitor heart rate during exercise. But delicate electronic components could break easily when they're worn day in, day out.
That's why UC San Diego researchers led by nanoengineer Joseph Wang have been working on developing a low-cost, printed material for these devices. Their results were published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.
One of the researchers, Amay Bandodkar, said the material they've created contains neodymium microparticles that magnetically pull the broken pieces back together to restore electrical current.
“The strong magnetic attraction brings them together almost instantaneously," Bandodkar said. He notes that even when incisions are as wide as three millimeters, the material can still heal itself within seconds. And it doesn't rely on any external catalyst to kick-start the healing process.
"We wanted to have a completely autonomous self-healing system," Bandodkar said.
The researchers shot a video showing the self-healing process in action. They attached a strip of the material to a shirt sleeve and used a pair of scissors to cut through it.
An LED light turns off when the cut is made, showing that the electrical current flowing through the material has been disrupted. But as the material pulls itself back together, the light turns on again.
Bandodkar said, "Basically, this shows a real-life application where some device may get damaged and the person does not need to do anything. It heals by itself."