Japan's newly-discovered self-healing glass could finally end broken smartphone screen problems

self-healing glass
A Galaxy S2 smartphone with broken screens Ashwin Kumar/Wikimedia Commons

An unintentional discovery of a new glass material by a Japanese student could be the long-lost answer to breakable glasses and device screens. This material is called "polyether-thioureas", which has been found out capable of healing broken glasses back to their normal original state.

Graduate school student Yu Yanagisawa at the University of Tokyo has discovered the properties of the polyether-thioureas glass by accident. A group of researchers from the university led by Professor Takuzo Aida said the newly-discovered self-healing glass could potentially be a great leap in the smartphone sector and other screened industries.

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In the research published in ScienceMag.org, polyether-thioureas is described to be made from a low weight polymer, which can heal cracks and breaks by just pressing them together using hands, without heating necessary.

While there have already been existing self-healing rubber and plastics using high temperatures, this new material can heal by itself from being broken even at room temperature as this glass is "highly robust mechanically yet can readily be repaired by compression at fractured surfaces".

In an interview with NHK, Yanagisawa said he was preparing the material as a glue, until he found out that the glass, when cut, the edges would adhere to each other, completely going back to normal after manual compression for 30 seconds at 21°C.

"I hope the repairable glass becomes a new environment-friendly material that avoids the need to be thrown away if broken," said Yanagisawa.

In the market today, LG's 2015 smartphone G Flex 2 is the only smartphone that has a material capable of self-healing. The phone's coating at the rear panel can cure minor scratches over time.

This article was first published on December 21, 2017