When it breaks it fixes by itself!

Penn State researchers have developed a flexible electronic material that self-heals to restore multiple functions, even after repeated breaks. (Top row) The material is cut in half, then reattached. After healing for 30 minutes, the material is still able to be stretched and hold weight. Credit: Qing Wang, Penn State

One of the stumbling blocks in wearable electronics is the wear the connections are subject to. The continuous bending of fabric ends up in breaking the connections making the wearable useless. 

Now researchers at Penn State University have developed a material with amazing self healing characteristics. You can appreciate it in the clip where a researcher cuts a strip of dielectric material and then show how it self heal itself restoring all functions.

Indeed this functions restoration is crucial. Most of the time, even in cases where you need to do something to heal a material like glueing two parts back together, you are not getting the same functionalities as before. You may get the same mechanical strength but a different electrical resistance or thermal conductivity. 

They managed to develop dielectric sheets made of alternating layers of polymer and boron nitride nano sheets. These latter are essential since when the material breaks the nano sheets presents on the breaking surface hydrogen bonds that self attract one another leading to alignment and self healing. 
Another interesting property of boron nitride is that it is impermeable to moisture. This means that this dielectric can also be used in damp-humid environment. You may take a shower with it!

Another advance in smart material science leading to significant changes in the next decade.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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