We live in a disposable world, where it seems like everything is designed to break and be replaced, but there are times when a break is really bad news and replacing parts might be impossible. One of those areas exists within the world of electronics, where one cracked chip can bring down an entire system. A recently developed system designed to self-heal polymer materials has been adapted for conductive systems, and the problem with cracked chips could soon become a thing of the past.
A team of University of Illinois engineers has come up with a way to make it seem like a circuit heals itself. The team had tiny microcapsules, as small as 10 microns in diameter, placed on top of a gold line functioning as a circuit. When a crack occurs in the line, the microcapsules break open and release a liquid metal that fills the crack and restores the flow of electricity. In addition to restoring the current within microseconds, the microcapsules also demonstrated outstanding reliability with 90% of the samples restoring up to 99% original conductivity, even with a small amount of microcapsules being used.
With the success of the self-healing process on electronic circuits, the team is now looking into applying the microcapsule system to batteries with hopes of improving their safety and longevity.