TECHKNOW: Things to come ... Self-healing PCBs

TECHKNOW: Things to come ... Self-healing PCBs - A dead PC is as often caused by a cracked printed circuit board - but not for much longer, if Fred Wudl has his way. The director of the Exotic Materials Institute at the University of California in Los Angeles has developed plastic that can heal itself.

by James Woudhuysen, James@Woudhuysen.com
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

A dead PC is as often caused by a cracked printed circuit board - but not for much longer, if Fred Wudl has his way. The director of the Exotic Materials Institute at the University of California in Los Angeles has developed plastic that can heal itself.

In the Diels-Alder reaction, two organic molecules bond to form long polymer chains. The bonds between the chains combine to make a solid with the mechanical strength of epoxy resin. If any of these breaks - say, when a crack forms - they can be rebonded by heating the material. Wudl has found a chemical mix where bonds form at 120 deg C.

PCBs made of Wudl's strong, transparent plastic wouldn't crack - the constant heating and cooling ensures that no sooner does a fissure form than it's fixed.

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