New materials may soon make it possible to repair damaged electronic components to mend themselves with precision and that too without any external intervention. The best part of the story is that these materials or ‘crystals’–are abundantly found in nature.
Presently the devices we use daily often break down due to mechanical damage, forcing us to repair or replace them. This decreases the life of the equipment and increases maintenance costs.
This notwithstanding there are many instances cases human intervention for restoration is not possible like in the case of space crafts.
Keeping this in mind, researchers from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Kolkata and IIT Kharagpur have developed piezoelectric molecular crystals that repair themselves without any external intervention. Piezoelectric crystals are a class of materials that generate electricity when it undergoes a mechanical impact.
The piezoelectric molecules developed by the scientists called bipyrazole organic crystals recombine autonomously and heal themselves in milliseconds with crystallographic precision without any external intervention.
The electrical charge generated at the crack junction of these broken pieces of molecular solids on mechanical impact lead to the attraction of damaged parts and precise autonomous repair.
These materials called ‘crystals’, with perfect internal arrangement of molecules or ions –are abundantly found in nature.
This research sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology was published in the journal ‘Science’ recently.
This methodology was initially developed by the IISER Kolkata team led by Prof. C Malla Reddy. Prof. Nirmalya Ghosh of IISER Kolkata used a custom-designed state-of-the-art polarization microscopic system to probe and quantify the perfection of the piezoelectric organic crystals.
Prof. Bhanu Bhusan Khatua and Dr Sumanta Karan both from IIT Kharagpur studied the performance of the new materials which may find application in high-end micro-chips, high precision mechanical sensors, actuators, and micro-robotics. Further research into such materials may eventually lead to the development of smart gadgets that self-repair cracks or scratches.