Electronic circuits are becoming more complex and denser. Damage to a single element can result in malfunctioning of the entire electronic system, this can range from a simple conducting wire to complex devices. The problem is more dominant when damages occur inside the ICs. When a tiny circuit inside an IC breaks, the whole chip or even the whole device is unusable.
Engineers of the University of Illinois has successfully developed a self-healing system capable of reparing a cracked circuit by fast restoration of its electrical conductivity.
“In general there’s not much avenue for manual repair”, said materials science and engineering professor Nancy Sottos. “Sometimes you just can’t get to the inside. In a multilayer integrated circuit, there’s no opening it up. Normally you just replace the whole chip. It’s true for a battery too. You can’t pull a battery apart and try to find the source of the failure.”
The self-healing system is based on microcapsules.When the circuit breaks the microcapsules break open to fill in the gap in the circuit. The microcapsule contains gallium–indium liquid metal. This self healing occurs within microseconds and the researchers demonstrated that 90 percent of their samples healed to 99 percent of original conductivity, even with a small amount of microcapsules. Microcapsules break only near the point of circuit failure and it doesn’t require any human assistance. This can be applied to small circuitry at microscale. This has brought about a new change since everthing prior to this was concentrated on structural repair but the microcapsules aim at restoring the conductivity.