When an electric circuit breaks, the consequences are often fatal and the entire board gets sent to the great scrapheap in the sky. If the damage is not too severe, then there is a chance that a trained professional will be able to fix it and get it back working once again. However, that route is potentially expensive and timeconsuming.
Now, imagine a world where you can snap components and circuits in half and watch, in amazement, as it autonomously heals itself.
It sounds like an impossible dream, right?
Well, maybe not…
A team of engineers from the University of California have managed to create a semi-magnetic substance that is capable of conducting an electrical current and can realign and reconnect itself when broken.
Amay Bandodkar, the group’s leader, wrote in the journal Science Advances, that their self-mending circuits could, eventually, be used to improvethe longevity and viability of wearable technology.
During the design and prototyping process, Bandodkar’s team manufactureed a number of different self-healing electronics, ranging from batteries and sensors, to complete working circuits. The group then experimented with different graphite and magnetic based solutions, and documented their results.
By adopting a simple trial and error approach to their work, the team were able to formulate the perfect solution for a variety of situations and components. Whilst the group only tested their work on simple circuits, there is the potential for their findings to be upscaled.
Despite all the positives surrounding Bandodkar’s magnetic approach to self-healing electronics, there are – unfortunately – a few negatives that will need to be addressed in the future.
When the circuits realign after being snapped, they often leave a visibile scar. Though this does not impact on the circuit’s conductive ability, there is a fear that this could create a weak point that would be vulnerable to break in the future.
Another downside is the inclusion of magnetic particles in the solutions that make the electronics, well, magnetic – and that’s not exactly great for a number of systems.
But these points will be addressed as the team continue their research and given the positives surrounding their work thus far, we think that there’s plenty of potential in this project!