In Japan there is an old folk tale in which the female servant of a shogun broke a dish to test his love for her. The test didn’t work out so well, and the shogun killed her and threw her body down the well. She then returned as a ghost and counted the remaining plates until the shogun decided to kill himself too.
And if they’d only had this cool new material, developed at the University of Tokyo, back in the 17th century, those two crazy kids could have settled down together and gotten sensible retirement savings plans instead of all that murder and mayhem.
Called “polyether thiourea” it is the first substance in the world that combines the hardness of glass but also the ability to repair itself after a complete break, simply by applying some pressure from your hands.
For example, let’s say Netflix has removed "Police Academy 4" from their catalog, and in a fit of righteous anger you smash your favorite Commandant Lassard tumbler against the wall. We’ve all been there. It sucks.
But with polyether thiourea all you would have to do is pick up the pieces and firmly press them back in their correct place for a few seconds. Once it’s all back together, the entire glass will have returned to its original strength in a matter of hours. Then it’s good as new until they come for "Mission to Moscow."
This substance was developed by Professor Takuzo Aida and his team of grad students at the University of Tokyo completely by accident while they were attempting to develop new types of adhesives.
Up until now, self-restoring materials were soft like rubber or putty or could only recover from superficial scratches, so Prof. Aida’s team were understandably skeptical when they found a glass-like substance that could reattach itself in room temperature with relatively little pressure even after a complete break.
But after repeated testing, it appeared to be the real deal. With any luck we’ll be entering a future of tableware that never needs to be wastefully thrown away or replaced.
Readers of the news shared in the excitement of this discovery:
“Really?! That’s amazing!”
“I want all smartphone screens to be made of this immediately.”
“You can make real Land of the Lustrous figures with this!”
“Hopefully the seams become invisible too, then it would be perfect.”
“Urea… it’s pee glass?”
To answer that last comment, it’s technically “thiourea,” which means it is similar to urea except that its oxygen atom is replaced with sulfur. So it’s probably more accurately described as “alien pee glass.”
But let’s not get bogged down in pee-talk when such a breakthrough is on the horizon. Although there are questions over the seamlessness of the material, it’s still a step in a hopeful direction. Perhaps we can even make significant developments in the arts of plate spinning and real glass slippers, if were dare dream of such a world.
Sources: NHK, Hachima Kiko
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