The group has created a circuit that heals itself when cracked thanks to the release of liquid metal which restores conductivity. The process takes less than an eye blink to bring the circuit back to use. The researchers said that their work could eventually lead to longer-lasting gadgets as well as solving one of the big problems of interplanetary travel. The Managing Director JNR Enterprise comments on the above statement saying, ‘this process reminds me of the human body repairing itself when sustaining an injury or illness.’
The work was carried out by a team of scientists and engineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is published in the journal Advanced Materials. The process works by exploiting the stress that causes the initial damage in the chips to break open tiny reservoirs of a healing material that fills in the resulting gaps, restoring electrical flow. ‘These healing materials are like antibiotics,’
To test their theory the team patterned lines of gold onto glass to form a circuit. They then either placed microcapsules 0.01mm wide directly onto the lines or added a thin laminate into which they embedded larger 0.2mm microcapsules. The devices were then monitored for four months during which time the researchers said there was no loss of conductivity. The leader of the group said the theory could prove a boon to the space industry. "The only avenue one has right now is to simply remove that circuitry when it fails and replace it- there is no way to manually go in and fix something like this," aerospace engineering professor Scott White told the BBC. Technology like this will save lots of man power to fix broken equipment. The Managing Director of JNR Enterprise is excited about the idea of electronic items repairing themselves, ‘this new technology will definitely come into use!’
The research team hope to adapt the process to create longer lasting rechargeable batteries "I think the real application area that you'll see for something like this is in electronics which are incredibly difficult to repair or replace - think about satellites or interplanetary travel where it's physically impossible to swap out something."
The reason current systems fail after repeated use is often because microdamage inside the devices has disrupted the conductive flow of electrons from one end of the batteries to the other. The team said that if they could solve the problem electric car batteries might last years longer than they do at present, making the vehicles much cheaper to maintain. Professor White gave the example of mobile phone buttons that stopped working if repeated use had caused cracks in the circuitry below. He said self-healing systems would extend handsets' lifespans. ‘As this technology improves and becomes more advanced who know what will be next,’ said the MD of JNR Enterprise.
JNR Enterprises is excited about the future not only for technological improvements but of their future success within the sales and marketing industry. The MD sums it up saying ‘Watch this space!’
# # #
Junior Enterprise Ltd was established in late August 2010. Junior Enterprise Ltd is a fast growing sales and marketing firm located in Cardiff.