Now fixing cell phone wounds closer to reality

Last Updated: Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - 13:10

London: 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.

ANI



First Published: Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - 13:00

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