It’s a well known fact that once a circuit fails, then an entire chip or even an entire device may suffer dramatically, reducing performance or even making a device inoperable. But science may find a way of reducing such damage, and even save a device from being destroyed.
Engineers from the University of Illinois recently developed the first system that can heal itself, restoring electrical conductivity to a damaged circuit in an instant. The astonishing results were recently published in the Advanced Materials journal.
With the introduction of such a system, all devices may turn out to be simpler. As the authors explain, once the system can detect and repair a problem without further assistance, the need for sensory diagnostics or redundancies becomes obsolete.
As electronics tend to get more and more sophisticated, the harder it gets to attempt a repair. A modern chip, for example, has a lot of density and can be positioned under a certain number of layers, such as integrated circuits. In such cases, if a circuit failure occurs, the only available solution would be to replace the entire circuit. This exact problem affects even batteries; when a battery stops working, there is no point in pulling it apart in order to find and repair the source of the failure.
When it comes to consumer devices, those are to be replaced on a regular basis, and simply because not all of them are recyclable, a lot of electronic waste can present an issue. For military or space instruments that encounter a chip malfunction, these may not be repaired or replaced for various reasons.
TheIllinoisteam working on the project used dispersed microcapsules on top of a circuit. When the circuit cracked, the microcapsules released the liquid metal found inside. The purpose of the liquid metal is to fill in the cracks and restore electrical flow.
Using such a system, an autonomous and localized repair can be conducted without human intervention. The repairs only take place at the point of failure, so no unnecessary capsules are used. Also, it can be attributed to any kind of circuits, from gadgets, computers and various electronics to even aircrafts or spacecrafts.
The engineers from the University of Illinois now will attempt in using this or a similar system in order to improve batteries in terms of longevity and safety.