Buying a high-end mobile phone or tablet nowadays requires shelling out at least $500, unless you sign up for a cumbersome two or three year contract. So, for most people, electronic gadgets are pricey investments that need to be protected. Unfortunately, that involves bulky, ugly cases and bumpers that hide away the elegant lines and exquisite materials of modern devices.
Naturally, the screen is the most exposed part of a smartphone and as a result, we are seeing an exponential increase in sales of screen protectors and phone covers. After all, a scratched screen or chassis is completely unattractive, regardless of how expensive the device was. Protecting your screen is an ongoing investment; depending on your usage and level of clumsiness, you might have to change these “protectors” every 2-3 months.
In an effort to reduce the dependence on such protectors, Japanese company Toray Advanced Film has introduced a “self-healing” film that might make small scratches a distant memory. This revolutionary technology is already available on a few notebook computers, with the company aiming for further expansion to phone and tablet devices.
This self-healing coat of film is made by using wet-coating a self-curing layer on top of a PET (polyethylene terepthalate) film. The PET layer has a maximum thickness of only 125μm, while the self-restoring layer is only 1/10th of that. Toray Advanced Film claims that due to the high viscosity, high elasticity, and cushioning properties of its product, it repairs itself in seconds.
The Japanese haven't released any information on the type of materials used (competitive edge?), only explaining that they have analysed the mechanism of repairing scratches and then applied it directly in the design of the film, building on existent materials with similar features.
The novelty brought by Toray's product lays in its speed of regeneration – it's one of the fastest such materials around, with the upper layer “healing” in less than 10 seconds at room temperatures, and even faster at lower temperatures. The film is also durable in time – the company claims it ran tests over 20,000 times, with the film maintaining its properties. But don't think that you'll be able to abuse your phone in any conceivable way. The self-repairing layer is very thin, so if a scratch goes deeper than this layer, it will not repair itself.
This is a very impressive piece of tech, seemingly right out of science fiction. Speaking of sci-fi, we covered a self-healing plastic that repairs itself when exposed to sunlight just a few days ago. These self-healing technologies will, of course, not be very effective against serious damage, at least, not yet. But if you're one of those users that get a lot of “mysterious” scratches on their phones, they just might be the solution you were waiting for.
What are your thoughts? Is this going to to make device protectors redundant? Would you prefer a self-healing layer protecting your devices? Of course you would…