MMBlog: Self-Healing Electronics

A look at an electronic material that self-heals and functions after being cut in half.

Bending a wire or piece of plastic back and forth can cause them to break in half, which is an inherent problem of flexible electronics. The more that electronic circuits and connectors are flexed, the more likely they’ll break. While researchers have shown off their self-healing chips, gels and microcapsules before, a new material out of Penn State brings auto-repair to dielectrics – the materials that insulate electric currents.

The material is made of plastic sheeting covered in boron nitride nanosheets that resist – rather than conduct – electricity. To produce self-healing properties, scientists added hydrogen bonding groups to the surface of the material. Researchers have shown the possibilities of the material by cutting it in half and demonstrating its self-repairing properties. When the two halves of the material were brought close to each other, an electrostatic charge pulled them together, restoring the hydrogen bonds and "healing" the material. Some forms of the material required heat or pressure to heal but others were able to fully restore themselves at room temperature.


Could this lead to improved electronics? In what other manufacturing applications could this material be used? 

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