By Udita Shukla
The American telecommunications market player, Motorola, has developed a smartphone with a screen that is armed with the ability to heal itself when cracked. The technology leverages the power of material science to usher in a new era of hardware that is unheard of.
At its heart, the screens will be made up of a material that can reverse its deformation completely or partially, when heated. Known as a “shape-memory polymer”, the seemingly unearthly feat is achieved by hitting on a ‘repair’ button and then tapping on the cracked area on the screen.
As the name suggests, shape-memory polymers (SMP’s) are essentially polymeric materials which can turn back shape transformations to their original condition. The healing process sets in by various stimuli such as heat, pressure, electric or magnetic fields and light. The properties of these so called ‘smart materials’ derive from the structural units that build up the substance at the molecular level. Consequently, the behaviour and the (apparent) ‘regenerative’ capacity of an SMP can be controlled and managed via its molecular arrangement.
Smart materials like SMP’s have done the rounds of the scientific and research community time and again. Quite recently, researchers at the University of Rochester demonstrated a polymer that could, while on the journey back to its pristine condition, snap back with a force as great as to lift thousand times its own weight.
Opportunities for success
Although the company has received a patent for the same by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the mass production of such smartphones is still uncertain.
The technology surely possesses the ability to disrupt a crowded smartphone market, only if it is priced competitively. Additionally, the smartphone must also be loaded with features comparable with other rival smartphones that have penetrated almost every market segment, both geographically and functionally.
Sure enough, the technology presents overarching influence to every other allied field where durability and tenacity of substances and building materials is a prime concern. If optimised and nurtured properly, similar materials can be employed in the automotive component sector, its aftermarket as well as miscellaneous healthcare and industrial equipment.
The technology rat race
Despite the rat race for the intelligent and connected algorithm to form the lifeline of a communications device, the innovation corroborates the fact that smartphone companies are still investing heavily in the research and development of hardware. Among all the existing industries in the market today, the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) domain is the most diverse, overlapping and difficult to narrow down to a single or handful of applications. It is as indispensable an aspect of a smartphone maker’s establishment as is the data infrastructure that supports it. This said, focus on the design and engineering of the more tangible parts of the phone is very much alive and could soon witness another revamp.
The communications domain has matured from an electromechanical contraption forming a telegraph system of the 1800’s to a handheld, wireless device. However, self-healing generates a feeling of control and power that defies any metaphysical influence from our lives. With the advent of self-healing screens, we will have moved a step closer to that ultra-modern age where inextricably connected social infrastructures communicate via a seemingly telepathic flow of information.
The world is a strange place and the science that pervades it is even stranger. With or without the era of ‘smart’ technologies and devices, the human civilisation is one incredible bunch of amateur creators.
Featured Image Source: Visual Hunt
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