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Scientists are developing a self-healing phone screenby Daniel Bean
TechTrends

A cracked phone screen is the worst. And as displays on handsets have been getting bigger and bigger, the problem has been getting more worrisome.

One group of scientists' solution: How about a self-healing screen?

Professor Chao Wang (University of California, Riverside) and team have been working on a transparent, stretchable polymer that can repair itself 24-48 hours after being scratched or broken apart. The first applications for the material include sensors, energy storage and artificial muscles, Wang said during an American Chemical Society meeting Tuesday.

But, more important for butterfinger phone users, the material's transparent property also makes it a candidate for, say, an iPhone screen, Yue Cao, lead author on the research with Wang, told Circa in an email.

(University of Colorado, Boulder)

"[This polymer] will generate new properties for devices and new applications. I don't think any material can compete with our material."

Chao Wang, American Chemical Society April 4, 2017

Wang said Tuesday that this new material could also be used to help fix another smartphone problem -- that they sometimes explode.

The polymer, described as naturally "soft" and "rubber-like," could help create a stretchable, self-healing battery that would be less prone to breaking down and catching fire, he said. 

Wang told Business Insider that a self-healing smartphone using this new material could come as early as 2020 and said at the Chemical Society meeting that, "I think we still have a lot of challenges to conquer, including reliability and the operation under different conditions."

As far as trading the cost of your phone blowing up for the cost of its price blowing up, Wang insisted the material will be "low cost" to the manufacturer.