According to researchers from Carnegie Mellon and the University of Tokyo shape-changing soft-bodied interfaces are gaining more attention for use in computer interfaces. This can provide a unique form, function, and interaction capabilities, whether for use in wearable applications, soft robotics, or a wide range of other use cases. One problem with this type of material, however, is that they tend to be fragile, and once broken, repair is quite difficult. The Self-Healing UI project, however, aims to change this in the form of devices that simply heal themselves — both mechanically and electrically — when the broken segments are pressed into one another.
The trick here is the use of a material known as MWCNTs-PBS, which is a composite made out of self-healing polymer polyborosiloxane (PBS), along with multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) that provide electrical conduction. The composites are initially put together using a layer-by-layer stacking technique, facilitated only by the material’s inherent ability to fuse together. As shown in the video below, this can be used to not only heal heart-shaped object with glowing LEDs inside, but also in the form of devices that can be cut up and configured into multiple smaller units.
The material has been demonstrated under Arduino control for touch and pressure sensing applications. It can even detect if a line has been cut — potentially useful when changing forms, or even as a damage sensor. Perhaps one day when your device breaks, you’ll simply stick it back together in order for it to heal automatically!