A Superpower from Sci-Fi Transformed to Everyday Devices
July 24, 2017, Marianna Mäki-Teeri
A group of scientist from the University of California, Riverside, got inspired by Wolverine, a comic character from the X-Men, who has self-healing abilities. As a result, they created transparent, self-repairing and highly stretchable material that can be electrically activated. Therefore, it’s especially suitable for improving the performance of smartphones, robots and other electronic devices. Even though it may seem far in the future, the first real applications are predicted to enter to market by 2020.
The Wolverine-inspired material is created by combining a polar, stretchable polymer with ionic salt. The material can stretch up to 50 times its size and automatically repair itself back together within 24 hours. The superior features of this self-healing polymer are based ion-dipole interaction which gives the material an ability to repair itself after breaking or getting scratches.
Chao Wang, an adjunct assistant professor of chemistry from the UC Riverside, believes that within three years there will be more self-healing products entering to market and genuinely changing our everyday life. He also predicts that their wonder material will be used for improving the screens and batteries of smartphones by 2020.
Smartphones aren't the only application in their mind, they hope that the material brings solutions for a wide range of fields. For example, it could used for building self-repairing robots, extend the lifetime of batteries and improve biosensors.
Many scientist have been working to create and improve self-healing materials since the early 2000s, but as highlighted by Wang: “Creating a material with all these properties has been a puzzle for years. We did that and now are just beginning to explore the applications.”