What if you dropped your smartphone and the screen shattered, but instead of searching for a costly repair or replacing the whole thing, the phone took a cue from comic book character Wolverine and healed itself?
Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have developed a special material that could one day be built into devices like smartphones to do just that. What they’ve created is a thin, rubber-like material made from a stretchable polymer and an ionic salt. It has a special kind of bond between its charged ions and polar molecules, meaning that when the material is scratched or cut, the ions and molecules attract each other and “heal” the break if left for 24 hours at room temperature. This is the first time such a material has been created that can conduct electricity, meaning that it could also extend battery life for electronics like cellphones and electric cars, as well as let robots self-heal or mend artificial muscle.