If you've ever been a smartphone owner, then chances are you've experienced the frustration of a shattered screen. The broken screens are more than an inconvenience, they also represent millions of phones that are then replaced with new ones, contributing to the world's e-waste and over-consumption problem.
There are simple steps people can take to prevent cracked screens, like always using a sturdy smartphone case, but scientists have also been working on making the screens more resilient and less prone to breaking. A team of scientists from Queen’s University’s School of Mathematics and Physics, Stanford University, University of California, California State University and the National Institute for Materials Science in Japan worked believe they have developed the miracle material that could eliminate cracked screens for good.
The team created a material that combines semiconducting molecules C60 with layered materials, like graphene and hBN. The new material is stable and can also convert sunlight into electricity.
“Our findings show that this new ‘miracle material’ has similar physical properties to Silicon but it has improved chemical stability, lightness and flexibility, which could potentially be used in smart devices and would be much less likely to break," said Dr. Elton Santos from Queen’s University’s School of Mathematics and Physics. “The material also could mean that devices use less energy than before because of the device architecture so could have improved battery life and less electric shocks.”
The team of scientists brought together their expertise in chemistry, physics and materials science to create this material that could not just mean stronger phone screens, but phones that are more energy efficient and able to charge themselves with sunlight.
There's still a major hurdle for the team though. Currently, the material architecture is missing a band gap which allows the on-off switching of electronic devices, but the researchers already have a solution lined up. Shatter-proof, self-powered phones may not be far away.