Self-healing materials to repair iPhones and consumer culture

Self-healing materials have the potential to change our consumer culture in a significant way.

Many people have experienced the dread of dropping a smartphone only to pick it up and discover a scratched screen.

It is no surprise, then, that clumsy smartphone users everywhere rejoiced when Apple’s patent for self-healing iPhone displays was unveiled in February.

However, Apple is not the only company to develop self-healing technology. Natoco, a paint manufacturer from Japan, has developed a self-healing coating made from a polymer alloy that can be applied to different types of objects.

Natoco describes its coating through two different features. One is a “curling effect” that smoothes the surface of the object so that it is slippery, preventing scratches in the first place.

The second is a “trampoline effect”, a restorative feature that softens the impact on the dropped object and bounces back its energy, effectively “healing” the object.

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The coating can be used for smartphones and other electronics that are easily scratched, but its applications are not limited to screens. Natoco foresees using it on vehicles, and it could also prove useful to prevent home appliances and kitchenware from being scratched.

Today, obsolescence is commonplace, and people discard objects that are still perfectly functional to replace them with the shiniest and newest models.

Smartphones are one of the most prominent examples of this throwaway mindset. If a phone gets a small scratch, it is often seen as unusable though it can still perform.

The quick cycle of buying and discarding is harmful for a number of reasons, particularly because it places no value on the resources that are used in the manufacturing of these items and ignores the resulting environmental impact.

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Perhaps self-healing technology can transform our current attitude towards early obsolescence. Though not a perfect solution, people might be less likely to buy new electronics and appliances at such a speedy rate if coatings such as Natoco’s can maintain their sleek appearances by preventing and healing unsightly scratches.

By using products to their full capacity of functionality, we could reduce waste and save money.

As this technology continues to develop, we will find other applications for it as well. Self-healing coatings could strengthen a wide variety of structures and objects, from aircrafts to water pipes, increasing their safety as well as their aesthetic.

Maybe one day our homes could even withstand extreme weather damage with the help of these materials.


Second body image courtesy of Matthijs Rouw.


Steve “Woz” Wozniak to advise hologram emoji company that he calls “groundbreaking”

Apple’s co-founder Steve “Woz” Wozniak has found himself a new gig; Woz has joined the hologram emoji company, Mojiit, as an adviser.

In his role as advisor to Mojiit, the legendary entrepreneur and engineer will help assemble a world-class engineering team in addition to bringing investors and partnerships to the newly launched startup. Wozniak will also serve as mentor to Mojiit founder, Jeremy Greene.

“I’m thrilled to join Mojiit as an advisor,” said Wozniak. “Jeremy is a natural leader, the company is groundbreaking, it’s going to change the ecommerce space, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Created in 2017, Mojiit is the latest startup technology venture from Greene. The company’s tech essentially enables users to project and share 3D hologram emojis via smartphones.

The platform turns users into emojis by scanning their face, which can then be sent to loved ones and friends. Once a Mojiit message is received, it will map the area where it is received and place the Mojiit hologram there in real time, so it works in a similar way to Pokemon Go.

“Steve is one of the best and brilliant engineers in the entire world. But outside of that, he’s a wonderful man,” said Greene. “There isn’t anyone I’d want to be in business with more than this guy. He’s a legend. Who better to learn from than the guy who created the computer?”

Image courtesy of Nichollas Harrison. Featured image courtesy of Mojiit

In addition to consumer use, businesses of all kinds can tap into hologram emojis with Mojiit’s technology.

Mojiit investors already  include NFL alum Ed Reed, and the company was able to raise a total of $1 million in its seed round of funding.

Alongside the appointment of Woz, Entourage and Ballers producer Rob Weiss recently joined the company as a creative director.

“It’s exciting to expand beyond television and film to digital platforms,” said Weiss. “Hologram technology brings incredible opportunity to entertainment and media. I’m thrilled to be leading creative at Mojiit.”

Nanoengineers send antibiotic-delivering micromotors into the body to treat cancer-causing infection

Nanoengineers have demonstrated for the first time how “micromotors” that measure half the width of a human hair can be used to transport antibiotics through the body.

Nanoengineers at the University of California San Diego tested the micromotors in mice with Helicobacter pylori infections, which can also be found in about two-thirds of the world’s population and while many people will never notice any signs of its presence it can cause peptic ulcers and stomach cancer.

The mice received the micromotors – packed with a clinical dose of the antibiotic clarithromycin – orally once a day for five consecutive days.

Afterwards, nanoengineers evaluated the bacterial count in each mouse stomach and found that treatment with the micromotors was slightly more effective than when the same dose of antibiotic was given in combination with proton pump inhibitors, which also suppress gastric acid production.

Micromotors administered to the mice swam rapidly throughout the stomach while neutralising gastric acid, which can be destructive to orally administered drugs such as antibiotics and protein-based pharmaceuticals.

Because gastric acid is so destructive to traditional antibiotics drugs used to treat bacterial infections, ulcers and other diseases in the stomach are normally taken with additional substances, called proton pump inhibitors.

But when taken over longer periods or in high doses, proton pump inhibitors can cause adverse side effects including headaches, diarrhea and fatigue. In more serious cases, they can cause anxiety or depression.

The micromotors, however, have a built-in mechanism that neutralises gastric acid and effectively deliver their drug payloads in the stomach without requiring the use of proton pump inhibitors.

“It’s a one-step treatment with these micromotors, combining acid neutralisation with therapeutic action,” said Berta Esteban-Fernández de Ávila, a postdoctoral scholar in Wang’s research group at UC San Diego and a co-first author of the paper.

The nanoengineers say that while the present results are promising, this work is still at an early stage.

To test their work, the team is planning future studies to into the therapeutic performance of the micromotors in animals and humans, and will compare it with other standard therapies used to combat stomach diseases.

UC San Diego nanoengineers also plan to test different drug combinations with the micromotors to treat multiple diseases in the stomach or in different sections of the gastrointestinal tract.

Overall, the researchers say that this work opens the door to the use of synthetic motors as active delivery platforms in the treatment of diseases.

Image and video courtesy of the Laboratory for Nanobioelectronics at UC San Diego.