As many of you know, a broken and then repaired thing won’t ever be as it was before, no matter how much we try. This truth applies as well to electronic circuits, that once broken are not very easy to fix. Despite these, a team of engineers at the University of Illinois managed to create self-healing circuits for electronics and batteries.
How many of you have not tried to open a TV or a laptop and when you had to put it back together it was already broken? I guess you know what I’m talking about, and I also guess you know this kind of question often asked by your not very happy parents: “You wanted to see why it worked, huh?”.
These days, many electronic circuits have very complex structures and just a small scratch can render them useless. Diagnosing and repairing a damaged device after such a scratch may take a lot of time. “In general there’s not much avenue for manual repair. Sometimes you just can’t get to the inside. In a multilayer integrated circuit, there’s no opening it up. Normally you just replace the whole chip. It’s true for a battery too. You can’t pull a battery apart and try to find the source of the failure”, said Nancy Sottos, an engineer working on this project.
So instead of sending your broken electronic circuit to a service for repairing, scientists explained how it could be covered with a thin “healing” layer. Dispersed along a circuit, microcapsules of about 10 microns in diameter will release a liquid metal that will fill in the crack and restore electricity. With no human intervention and a healing rate of 99%, these self-healing circuits could lead to longer lasting electronics.
One of the most important applications of these healing microcapsules, is using them in air and spacecrafts where broken circuits may cause disasters so they have to be fixed immediately. Scientists are still searching for many applications of their healing circuit but for now I think this is an amazing technological advance we should consider it for our future. Let’s see how such a circuit restores electricity in just 20 seconds: