Scientists have created the world's first self-healing gel, and the incredible innovation could open the door for flexible electronics.
The "supergel" material has high conductivity as well as strong mechanical and electrical self-healing properties, the University of Texas at Austin reported.
"In the last decade, the self-healing concept has been popularized by people working on different applications, but this is the first time it has been done without external stimuli," said mechanical engineering assistant professor Guihua Yu, who developed the gel. "There's no need for heat or light to fix the crack or break in a circuit or battery, which is often required by previously developed self-healing materials."
The gel is composed of a self-assembling metal-ligand gel, which provides the self-healing properties, and a polymer hydrogel that is a conductor. The result of this combination is a 10 times higher conductivity compared to other polymer hydrogels used in bioelectronics and conventional rechargeable batteries. The gel also boasts elevated mechanical strength and elasticity. The researchers noted the gel cannot be used to replace the typical metal conductors that transport electricity, but could act as a soft joint that connects different parts of a circuit.
"This gel can be applied at the circuit's junction points because that's often where you see the breakage," Yu said. "One day, you could glue or paste the gel to these junctions so that the circuits could be more robust and harder to break."
The findings were published in a recent edition of the journal Nano Letters.