Self-healing plastic could make your touchscreen less prone to scratches

L.A. Cicero

Here at GeekTech, we’ve seen a number of self-healing plastics that promise to help your smartphone recover from a rough encounter with keys in your pocket. But what if your device suffers a gash so deep that it damages the touchscreen?

A team of Stanford researchers have developed a new type of touch -sensitive surface that not only repairs itself physically when cut, but electronically as well. The touch-sensitive plastic skin, as spotted by Physorg, is unlike any other self-healing plastic in that it could actually be used in our devices someday.

The problem with most existing self-healing mediums is that they don’t actually conduct electricity very well, which would render your capacitive touchscreen useless. To counter this problem, the scientists developed a new skin that incorporates a plastic polymer held together by fast-forming hydrogen bonds and lined with tiny particles of nickel. The nanoscopic nickel particles create a sort of "mini-machete" surface that readily conducts electricity.

When the scientists put the material under the scalpel, they observed that it was able to regain 75 percent of its original strength and electrical conductivity within a few seconds of being cut. Given a full 30 minutes to recover, the scientists say that material was restored to almost 100 percent of its original properties. That’s a way faster healing rate compared to any human other than Wolverine.

On top of adding self-healing touchscreens to our devices, the scientists hope to develop the technology into a synthetic skin for prosthetics and robots that’s sensitive to touch and able to heal itself quickly.

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