The Geek Squad might not like this development, but we're excited about it. Engineers at the University of Illinois have developed a self-healing system for electronics that they say can restore conductivity to failed circuitry in "mere microseconds."
Today's ever-denser chips face more reliability problems due to the increasingly sophisticated demands on electronic devices. When one circuit within an integrated chip fails, the whole chip, and even the whole device (and your pressing deadline, of course) can go down with it.
"In a multilayer integrated circuit, there's no opening it up," Nancy Sottos, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said in a statement. "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."
To get around the need for external intervention and diagnostics (which may not be readily available for spacecraft or defense-based aircraft, for example), the researchers adapted a previous technique they'd developed for self-healing polymer materials.
They placed tiny microcapsules (as small as 10 microns in diameter) filled with liquid metal on top of a gold line functioning as a circuit. When the circuit cracks, the microcapsules break open, releasing the liquid gallium-indium alloy into the gap and restoring electrical flow--up to 99 percent in most cases. The liquid does its bidding in less time than it takes to blink. … Read more