Img/2012/1/11/phoe-100.jpgLondon: A new method, dubbed “repair-and-go” could soon be able to heal small-scale scratches on digital device surfaces, researchers say.
A digital device may sustain hard-to-pinpoint nanoscale cracks, which can cause the device as a whole to malfunction.
A team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) propose a “repair-and-go” approach to fixing malfunctions caused by small-surface cracks on any digital device or part before it hits store shelves.
“Anything that’s a machine with a surface is affected by these small-scale cracks,” said Anna Balazs, Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering and coinvestigator on the project.
“These are surfaces that play a role in almost anything, especially functionality.”
The Pitt-UMass research team approach was inspired by the ability of white blood cells in the body to heal wounds on-site.
Balazs and Pitt colleagues first came up with a theoretical “repair-and-go” method: A flexible microcapsule filled with a solution of nanoparticles would be applied to a damaged surface; it would then repair defects by releasing nanoparticles into them.
Using nanoparticles and droplets of oil stabilized with a polymer surfactant—compounds that lower the surface tension of a liquid—the UMass team actualized the theory, showing that these microcapsules found the cracks and delivered the nanoparticle contents into them.
Balazs has proposed that manufacturers use this method as a last step in the building process.
“The repair-and-go method can extend the lifetime of any system or device,” she said.
“Additionally, it could be used as a repair method after a crack has been found,” Balazs added.
The study has been recently published in Nature Nanotechnology.
First Published: Wednesday, January 11, 2012, 13:00