We may be getting closer to an indestructible smartphone.
French physicist Ludwik Leibler won the European Patent Office's 2015 Inventor Award earlier this month for discovering a new type of polymer, named vitrimers, that has both glass-like properties and the power to heal itself infinite times.
In other words, we might be on our way to getting self-healing phone screens.
Leibler discovered this technology when he combined two different materials into one “supramolecular” substance, whose molecular bonds are neither rigid nor permanent, but in dynamic equilibrium. It is for this reason that vitrimers are sturdy yet moldable at the same time, which allows the plastic to change from a solid to a pliable consistency -- in other words, self-repair -- when the temperature changes.
With this new easy-to-repair plastic, it is entirely likely that cracked phone and tablet screens will become a thing of the past -- but probably not anytime soon. It remains unclear when vitrimers will hit consumer products.
“We think that the first applications will be in transport, in cars, in planes,” Leibler told CNN in an exclusive interview Thursday.
This is not the first instance of experimental science being able to save our devices from ourselves. In December 2014, Apple obtained a patent for a technology that can sense when a device is falling mid-air and work with the device's internal components to shift the center of mass to minimize as much damage as possible. Apple also won a patent in July 2014 for a glass that would neither break nor scratch even when scraped with sharp objects.
While we patiently wait for miraculous vitrimers to grace our smartphones and tablets, cracking your screen won't be the end of the world, either: here are four ways to fix a cracked phone screen without having to buy a new one.