Boffins use magnets to repair gizmos

MagnetBoffins at the engineering lab team at the University of California, San Diego have come up with a way to fix electronic gizmos by creating magnetic ink particles that self-heal when they break.

Sensors printed with this ink would magnetically attach to each other when a rip or tear occurs, automatically fixing a device at the first sign of disintegration.

Amay Bandodkar, a member of the research team said the magnetic repairing system works a bit like the human skin making it stretchable and self-healing.

“Within a few seconds it’s going to self-heal, and you can use it again,” he said.

The team first created sensors that can be incorporated with fabrics. The result is smart clothing that can repair cuts up to three millimetres long in 50 milliseconds. Now the next thing is to make the magnets do something more electronic.

To create the self-healing effect, the team used pulverized neodymium magnets typically found in fridges and hard drives and combined them into the ink. This helps the researchers avoid the traditional process of adding chemicals and heat, which could take hours to complete.

Bandodkar said that $10 worth of ink can create “hundreds of small devices” that can help reduce waste, since you won’t need to throw these wearables and gadgets out when they’re broken.

The team is currently evaluating the best ink ratios to use for different gadget-printing applications, with the goal of using them to create anything from solar panels to medical implants.