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Scientists in South Korea believe they may have an ingenious way of repairing broken phone screens, having devised an innovative solution that involves enriching devices' screens with linseed oil so they can fix themselves.
The research project, published in the journal Composite Part B: Engineering, was led by Dr Yong-Chae Jung, head of the center at Institute of Advanced Composites Materials at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST).
The project involved embedding linseed oil into the screen in the form of microcapsules, with the team saying these can repair cracks when they appear.
The approach creates a polymer bilayer film (PBF), which sandwiches two layers - the linseed oil capsules and the glass-like product used in phones and other devices called CPI - to create a single material.
In laboratory tests, the researchers showed how, when the integrity of the screen is compromised, the transparent linseed oil is released.
It then hardens in the newly-made fissures, in turn repairing any damage.
The team claim that their groundbreaking new process can fix 95 percent of all cracks - and that it can even do so within 20 minutes.
The method is often used to repair cricket bats and art because linseed oil has no colour, hardening at room temperature.
Normally, it can take hours, but the researchers were able to speed up the process using warmer temperatures and UV light.
The research team explained in the study's abstract: "Under various external environmental stimulating factors, we focus on the self-healing kinetics of polymer bilayer films (PBFs) comprising a colorless polyimide (CPI) bottom-substrate layer and linseed oil loaded microcapsule (LOMC)-embedded polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) upper-healing layer.
"The experimental results showed clear correlation between stimulating factors and the healing time.
"Although the crack-healing behavior of PBF with 5 wt% microcapsule under air atmosphere is fairly slow, it has an improved healing effect at the artificial crack interface heating to 70 °C; moreover, gradual healing is observed by moisture absorption in environments with relative humidity of 70%.
"Remarkably, we found that ultraviolet (UV)-light irradiation through the 5 wt% LOMC-filled PDMS layer triggers a noticeable kinematic advantage for the drying reaction that initiates interfacial self-healing.
"Short-time (20 min) UV-irradiated PBF 5 wt% exhibits a low water vapor permeability of 35.4 g m−2 day−1 and excellent healability with ~91% recovery by single capsule-type photochemical-induced self-healing."
They added: "The proposed approach advances the extrinsic healing of colorless polymers in a kinetically effective way without compromising their chemical composition."