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Self-healing glass that mends itself has somewhat unexpectedly become a reality. This, when a Japanese researcher unintentionally discovered the effect while working on something else.

What the Japanese scientist Yu Yanagisawa happened to discover was a super-durable glass that could extend the lifetime of glass used in car windows, aquariums and indeed your smartphone screen.

Yu Yanagisawa, who works as a chemist at the Tokyo University, accidentally made the discovery when working on a new tape that could attach to wet surfaces.

The glass heal breaks when pressed together by hand without the need for high heat to melt the material in just 30 seconds.

“High mechanical robustness and healing ability tend to be mutually exclusive,”

“In most cases, heating to high temperatures, on the order of 120 degrees Celsius or more, to reorganize their cross-linked networks is necessary for the fractured portions to repair.”

– The researchers write.

The secret is a whole new kind of glass made of polyether thiourea, that gives the glass surfaces its adhesive properties.

According to Yanagisawa, this is not the solution to broken mobile screens. Once they are broken, it is an irreversible fact. But mobile screens and other glass products do not always break suddenly.

Material wears down over time, microscopic cracks builds up and hampers durability. Polyether thiourea could counteract this effect and increase durability.

The research has been published in Science, by researchers led by Professor Takuzo Aida from the University of Tokyo.

Reference:

Yu Yanagisawa, Yiling Nan, Kou Okuro1, Takuzo Aida Mechanically robust, readily repairable polymers via tailored noncovalent cross-linking DOI: 10.1126/science.aam7588


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