A new self-healing material has been invented that we may see implemented on smartphone screens in the not too distant future. The material can conduct electricity and apparently has abilities to self-repair beyond just cuts and scratches.

As reported by Business Insider, the new material that the chemists at University of California, Riverside created is made up of “a stretchable polymer and an ionic salt.” The self-healing aspect is enabled by the particular ions and molecules being attracted to each other:

The material, which can stretch to 50 times its original size, is made of a stretchable polymer and an ionic salt. It features a special type of bond called an ion-dipole interaction, which is a force between charged ions and polar molecules. This means that when the material breaks or has a scratch, the ions and molecules attract to each other to heal the material.

Even more impressive is the material’s ability to repair and reconnect itself after being ripped apart.

The researchers conducted several tests on the material, including its ability to repair itself from cuts and scratches. After they tore the material in half, it automatically stitched itself back together in under 24 hours, Chao Wang, a chemist leading the self-healing material research, tells Business Insider.

While there have been some applications of self-healing materials in smartphones like LG’s G Flex, they have been mostly limited to the back of the device. This new invention is the first material that can conduct electricity allowing for use with touchscreens and may also make new innovation possible in the battery industry. Lead chemist Chao Wang shared that he believes this new material will make it to market in consumer products like smartphones by 2020.

“Self-healing materials may seem far away for real application, but I believe they will come out very soon with cell phones. Within three years, more self-healing products will go to market and change our everyday life,” he says. “It will make our cell phones achieve much better performance than what they can achieve right now.”

With advances in technology like the shatterproof displays Motorola has been using for several years with this new self-healing material, display damage and replacements could become a thing of the past.

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Michael Potuck

Michael is an editor for 9to5Mac. Since joining in 2016 he has written more than 3,000 articles including breaking news, reviews, and detailed comparisons and tutorials.