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Have You Seen This Gel? Self-Healing Substance Could Help Smartphones Repair Themselves

UT Austin
The photo shows the gel in various stages of the self-healing process. Starting from the top left, then moving clockwise, the gel splits in half, then reconnects.

Engineers at UT Austin have created a new kind of gel that can repair and reconnect electronic circuits. KUT's Mose Buchele reports on possible applications, from smarter smart phones to self-healing robot armies. 

The gel’s inventor, UT Mechanical Engineering Professor Guihua Yu, says self-healing gels have actually been around for a while—but this stuff is different. 

This gel reconnects broken electronic circuits as it repairs itself. And Yu says it does it all on its own without the need to apply heat or pressure.

“Meaning, they can self-repair and regain function after it’s damaged,” he says.

So, are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Credit From Terminator 2
In the Terminator films, the T-1000 robot rapidly repairs itself after it's subject to injury.

“Yes! And that’s another application, so basically it could be used for an electronic skin,” says Yu.

So it actually could be used for robots, he says.  “Absolutely. That’s like for future electronics.”

But in the meantime, he says there are more immediate applications. The gel could help batteries become longer lasting, it could improve wearable technology, and it might come in handy if you ever break a cell phone.

A closer look at the self-healing process.

“If they can regain the function by themselves, that’s going to be very, very useful.”

He says the next step is to partner with industry to develop applications. No word yet on whether Cyberdyne Systems has shown any interest.  

Mose Buchele focuses on energy and environmental reporting at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mosebuchele.
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