University of Illinois Tests Self-repairing Chips
Everyone who’s watched movies has probably wished their own electronic gizmos could self-repair like the T-1000 from Terminator 2. Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have created a system of self-repairing circuits that functions in a similar fashion as that metallic killing machine.
Building on their previous work of self-repairing polymers, the team placed microcapsules—some no larger than 10 microns—on a gold line that acted like a circuit for the purposes of their experiment. The circuit was then intentionally cracked, which caused the microcapsules to break and disperse the liquid metal contained within. The liquid metal slid into the crack, sealing it, allowing the circuit to continue functioning.
“It simplifies the system,” said chemistry professor Jeffrey Moore, a co-author of the paper. “Rather than having to build in redundancies or to build in a sensory diagnostics system, this material is designed to take care of the problem itself.”
The research team believes their breakthrough could have a variety of potential uses, including acting as safeguards in aerospace and military engineering. As developers continue to cram as much onto a chip as possible, it becomes more difficult to engineer the chips for variables such as temperature extremes that can cause them to fail. Many chips are also difficult to get to without disassembling large portions of whatever device they happen to be part of.
“In general there’s not much avenue for manual repair,” said 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-repair function also has the virtue of being completely autonomous. According to the scientists, the microcapsules repair cracks before anyone even knows something has gone wrong. This feature could be incredibly useful in machines like airplanes, where fixing something mid-flight isn’t really an option.
Below you’ll find a video explaining this idea.
Source: University of Illinois