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Self-healing Circuits

by James Meikle

Apparently there are teams of scientists in a variety of countries working on ways to create self-healing electronics devices. One such team has had recently had a major success; scientists at the university of Illinois have managed to create a circuit that heals itself when cracked. The tech has been designed so it could work on a really small scale and may eventually lead to self-repairing microchips.

What are they doing? Don’t they know that when the robot apocalypse comes our only chance of survival is to aim for the microchips? Sure, you can blow off an arm or a robo-tentacle, but the automaton assassins just ain’t going to stop coming until you damage the chip. After all, they won’t feel pain, they won’t go into shock and they will of course be hell-bent on our annihilation.

These reckless researchers could end up sealing our fate if they succeed in developing their bloody self-healing chips. Our electronic enemies with be like mash up between two of the most unstoppable types of movie monsters: the relentless killer robots and the supernatural psychos that just refuse to die a la Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees. Hell the robots could even get cocky and go for a bit of psychological warfare by grabbing massive machetes and donning hockey masks.

Anyway, if we’re going to come up with a way to counter this heinous threat we’re going to have to understand the tech first. Surprisingly, there is no mention of the almost mythical nano-technology; it doesn’t look like we’re going to see robots being repaired by other microscopic robots anytime soon. However, the simplicity and elegance of the actual tech is almost as disturbing.

The circuits are made with tiny liquid metal capsules embedded into the brittle surfaces. When stress is applied the surface cracks and breaks the circuit. However, when the surface cracks the capsules crack along with it and the liquid metal quickly fills the gap, hardens and restores the circuit. It’s almost similar to how our skin reacts to a cut: blood fills the gap, then hardens and restores the seal. With the circuits though, this happens within one millisecond.

Great, the robots with be all healed up before you can even yell ‘Take that you jumped-up toaster!’

But there might actually be a couple of bright sides to this tech. For one, your lovely electrical appliances might last significantly longer. But, more importantly, this tech could be extremely helpful when it comes to space travel. One of the main issues with prolonged space travel is the need for spare parts; on a spaceship it’s kind of difficult to order a new circuit board from eBay. This new tech could give us self-healing circuits which last much longer, meaning that it might actually be feasible for us to escape the mechanical monstrosities by blasting off into space and searching for a new robot free home.

What other fields would benefit from circuits which can heal themselves almost instantly? How would you take out a super-tough robot with a self-repairing chip? Let us know in the comments box below.

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