Shattered phone screen

Japanese scientists have discovered a new polymer glass that can heal itself and could be used as screen material for smartphones, TVs, PCs, laptops, tablets, and other electronics equipment.

Just like many scientific advances, the polymer glass was discovered by accident by a Japanese student at the University of Tokyo.

Self-healing polymer glass discovered by accident

In an interview with a local newspaper, the student —named Yu Yanagisawa— says he discovered the polymer glass while working on creating a glue.

In one of his experiments, the student's trials resulted in the creation of a unique polyether-thioureas glass. He discovered that when he cut pieces off the polymer glass, they would adhere to each other and create a solid connection after only manually compressing the two glass sheets together for 30 seconds at a 21°C.

Yanagisawa immediately realized he stumbled upon something special because all previous self-healing materials would begin the self-healing process at very high temperatures only, and would usually require hours to stitch back together.

After repeating his discoveries to make sure this wasn't a fluke, Yanagisawa went to his professors. Subsequent work on detailing this new polymer glass was published this month in the Science Magazine. The research paper is titled "Mechanically robust, readily repairable polymers via tailored noncovalent cross-linking."

Not the first such material

The polymer glass discovered by the Japanese team is perfect for use as a material for manufacturing screens, but it's not the only such discovery made this year.

In April 2017, researchers at the University of California, Riverside discovered what they called an "artificial muscle" that can also self-heal.

The new material, which doesn't have a name yet, is transparent, stretches up to 50 times its original size, conducts ions to generate current, and stitches itself together in about a day, at room temperature, after being completely torn apart.