Could cracked screens soon be a thing of the past?

Broken Phone, Cracked Screen
Photo: Hvostik, Bigstock

Japanese researchers may have found a way to help people all over the world save hundreds of dollars spent on fixing their cracked smartphone screen.

A team of Japanese researchers at the University of Tokyo are said to have found the solution to everyone’s cracked screen problems with a self-healing glass. The new development is made from a light polymer called polyetherthioureas and is supposedly able to heal any cracks and breaks without the need for excessive heating. Simply pushing the glass together will mend the crack or break in the glass and save you hundreds of dollars.

The lead researcher for the project, Takuzo Aida, said that the self-healing glass would have a benefit for both consumers and the environment. Consumers, as stated, would save in fixing cracked screen but the reduction in need for replacement screen would also help with environmental sustainability.

The researchers noted that “high mechanical robustness and healing ability tend to be mutually exclusive” and even those that are able to heal themselves require immense heating to reorganise the fractured connections between the molecules within the material.

This new glass is said to be able to fix itself at room temperature which would be a first worldwide with eve some plastics and rubbers still requiring some form of heating, if only slight. Interestingly, the property of this specific polymer was only stumbled across accidently.

Graduate student Yu Yanagisawa was planning on using the polymer as a glue however when he cut the surface he noticed that the edges were able to stick together. After pressing the edges together for 30 seconds, the two pieces would come together as a slid structure. Through further experimentation, Yanagisawa was able to conclude that after a few hours the material would in fact return to its original strength.

Much of the desire behind the new glass is the environment-friendly nature of the product that is likely to have a big impact on the market. There is no doubt that it would be a popular upgrade for smartphone users but is a matter of whether they would be willing to pay for it.

It is likely that there would be a premium placed on devices with the self-healing glass by smartphone and tablet providers in order to cover the likely cost increase of the new glass. Let’s just hope that it comes on the market sooner rather than later and that the public can see the benefits beyond a few hundred dollars.