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Hardware Science

New Take on Self-Healing Polymer Could Mean Scratch-Free Screens 67

techprophet writes to mention that a new take on self-healing plastic could provide a long-term solution to scratched screens. The new polymer, developed by scientists at the University of Southern Mississippi, uses UV light to reform bonds between molecules rather than embedded healing agents of similar systems. "At the core of their design is polyurethane, which is an elastic polymer that already has decent scratch resistance. To enhance its ability to withstand mechanical damage, Ghosh and Urban added two more components, OXE and CHI. OXE has an unstable chemical structure (a four-membered ring containing three carbons and one oxygen) that makes it prone to being split open. CHI is UV sensitive. The idea is that, if the polyurethane gets damaged by a scratch, the unstable ring structure of OXE will open to create two reactive ends. Then, UV light can trigger CHI to form new links with the reactive ends of OXE and thereby fix the break in the polymer."
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New Take on Self-Healing Polymer Could Mean Scratch-Free Screens

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  • by notgm ( 1069012 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @03:37PM (#27185009)

    it could trigger a healing process, or it could release noxious fumes, killing the user.

    it's like a 70-30 chance, don't worry about it.

    • That'll teach those terrorists to travel with their terrorist tote-bags!
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by davester666 ( 731373 )

        > That'll teach those terrorists to travel with their terrorist self-healing tote-bags!

        Fixed it for yah.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by haystor ( 102186 )

        The people that touch monitor screens with their fingers are obviously in league with the terrorists.

        • The people that touch monitor screens with their fingers are obviously in league with the terrorists.

          Them and the nail salons that glue three-inch long plastic spikes to the fingers of gum-chomping, nasally-voiced secretaries

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 13, 2009 @03:49PM (#27185171)

      Get your new iPod touch 50g with latest screen healing!!!

      *General surgeon warning: scratching the surface might result in death. Other less serious side effects may include "lung quake, facial corkboarding, eye-arrea, bearded thalamus, transsexual kidneys, rectal dyslexia, Flu-nami, Spontaneous Mertail, and Honey Nut Areolas".

  • How many times? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by VeNoM0619 ( 1058216 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @03:38PM (#27185017)
    So can it only repair the bond once, since it splits open?
    • Re:How many times? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by interiot ( 50685 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @04:25PM (#27185687) Homepage
      From TFA:

      this polymer system still needs some work before it can be released commercially. For example, the authors must figure out what happens if a second scratch occurs directly where a previous scratch was mended

      It's a bit hard to believe they've never tried this though, just to see what happens. So, this comes down to "more funding plz"?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sjames ( 1099 )

      Perhaps. Each molecule can only participate in a repair once, but perhaps not all of them are consumed for a particular repair (leaving enough for another repair or 2).

      Even if it is only once, depending on the cost it might still be worthwhile since a single scratch can render a screen painful to use (and this would solve that problem) and it's unlikely that every scratch will happen in exactly the same place. Even if the scratches intersect, having a bad spot on the screen would beat two long scratches.


  • by wjh31 ( 1372867 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @03:40PM (#27185031) Homepage
    im sure most people imagine large gashes closing themselves perfectly a-la movie style regeneration, but a little common sense says that is probably a bit beyond this techs capabilities. What size scratch can it really 'heal', and in what time frame?
    • RTFA. It displays pictures, showing it heal a 9.5 m sized scratch.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by gurps_npc ( 621217 )
        Sorry, slashdot did not display the proper character. that is 9.5 micrometers (I tried to use Ansi character 181 in front of the m, the scientific notation for micrometers.) For further clarification, a human red blood cell is about 7 mirometers.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by wjh31 ( 1372867 )
        9.5 micrometer, but how far does it go, is that as big as it can manage? How many of the noticeable scratches on the display of your favourite phone/mp3 player/laptop etc could be healed by this, i.e what is the typical size of a scratch in the real world
      • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

        by corsec67 ( 627446 )

        You have a screen that could stand a 9.5 meter wide scratch?

        (Article says 9.5 micrometers)

      • 9.5 meters?! wide!?! that would be awesome.
    • by Churla ( 936633 )

      Not just that, but what level of UV is taken to activate this? If you take something made of this substance out into a Texas summer day will it immediately lose all it's self healing capacity because all the CHI gets exposed and used?

      • It would be worse on a sunny Colorado Winter's day. You Texans are spoiled with all your fancy atmosphere.


    • If this is similar to other self healing paint technology I would assume that the scratch or chip from something like a small rock or someone keying your car (not too badly though) would heal. Also like other similar technology I would assume that the healed area would still show signs, but would look better than those tubes of touch up paint that claim to match the color of your car that never do. You would probably notice it as being an uneven area in the paint if you looked closely.
      • I cant wait for my iphone to finally match my true personality...scarred and disfigured. Color cases just were never edgy enough for me...
  • by Cutting_Crew ( 708624 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @03:56PM (#27185297)
    i also submitted this story this morning so since this made it i guess mine will be scrapped. because of this i can also give you a few links. This is great technology no doubt.

    USM Main Website []

    Scientific American [] had a hit on this.

    School of Polymers and High Performance Materials Link []

    Marek W. Urban [] is the principle chemist and researcher for the project and was the co-author of the findings and its current research publication in the journal Science.

    Video of an actual test [] after scratching a surface.

    Sorry if i am a little excited but its nice to be personally linked to a university that is about 15 minutes from where you live.
  • What about Glasses? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by VortexCortex ( 1117377 ) <VortexCortex&project-retrograde,com> on Friday March 13, 2009 @04:00PM (#27185357)

    Does anyone else think this technology could also serve well as self healing lenses for glasses?

    What good is a scratch free screen if I can't see it through my scuffed eye-wear?

    • I agree that it would be more useful on glasses than on a monitor... Still, it would only double the useful life of the lens since it can only heal once in any given location.
      • Still, it would only double the useful life of the lens since it can only heal once in any given location.

        That would only be true if you use your glasses until the entire surface area is scratched.

        • Still, it would only double the useful life of the lens since it can only heal once in any given location.

          That would only be true if you use your glasses until the entire surface area is scratched.

          or if you only tolerate a single defect and usually get your scratches in the same area....

          On a more practical turn, they're only healing razor thin scratches for now, I imagine one good drag across with a grain of sand would make an unhealable cut.

    • by MagicM ( 85041 )

      It will work for glasses too, but you will have to stare directly at the sun for half an hour to remove scratches.

    • by RemyBR ( 1158435 )
      Or scratch-healing camera lenses (for both photography and video). It'd be a big plus having the front coating of an $1.5k+ lens with this, so you don't have to send it to repairs just because a minor scratch.
      • Except that any good filter had metal coatings, and I doubt this would be able to fix the coating as well.

        For example, a Heilopan UV/protective filter [] with SH-PMC coating has 16 layers of coatings on each side.

        If you aren't going to use a fully multicoated filter, then you are degrading every picture taken with that $1.5K lens.

      • I always thought that higher end camera lenses were glass, which kind of falls out of this category.

    • by DrCode ( 95839 )

      Does sound plausible. But I also imagine it will be one of those ultra-expensive add-ons the optician will try to sell us.

    • That's the first thing I thought of. I am terrible with my glasses (developed bad habits early). Always putting them in my shirt pocket instead of their case (actually, do people actually use glasses cases?) After a while they get lots of minor scratches. You sort of get used to seeing through them (ignoring them), but it'd be nice if the plastic lenses could fix themselves and always be clear. Maybe the glasses would last a little longer.

    • Get glasses lenses instead of plastic and learn to friggin' take care of your glasses.

  • The current tech is only good for one healing cycle, can't fix a scratch in the same place twice. Also, it needs fairly strong UV to activate, not likely in most geek-dens.
  • "an unstable chemical structure" Can anyone say flubber
  • by jmrust ( 872335 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @06:50PM (#27187647)
    Am I the only one that finds a url ending in scratches.ars friggen hilarious while perusing slashdot minutes before my Friday escape from the office?! :D
  • by Atheraal ( 710104 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @07:25PM (#27188067) Homepage
    Isn't one of the biggest weaknesses of current solar panels that they get scratched up over time, thus losing efficiency? Seems like a good match to me..
  • by Anonymous Coward

    A similar technology already exist for cars exterior paints: [] look for exterior tab, "Scratch Shield paint". The paint recovers from minor scratchs in a few days, automatically.

  • Can we say melanoma?

    1) Deal with my stupidity, keep the scratch, or buy another device.
    2) Use a number of cheap screen protectors I toss once destroyed.
    3) Pay gobs of cash for the tech then risk melanoma to repair a scratch.

    I don't know about you, but I'll take option 1 or 2 over number 3.
  • .... what about this polymers clarity and resistance to any discoloring over time?
  • This is awesome news. As was the last time some "self healing" material was announced. And the time before that. I'm sure the military probably has them, but when will they actually arrive in consumer products?

    Will my flexible e-Ink display with batteries that wirelessly charge in five seconds by just laying it on top of a special surface also come with a self healing screen?

Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty. -- Plato