Apple has filed a patent for a foldable display with the ability to repair itself when damaged, according to a report from Patently Apple.
Published on the USPTO’s website, the patent filing details a possible future electronic device with a display that spans the hinge or bend axis.
This display could include a transparent dielectric layer and self-healing material, in addition to a layer of elastomer for increased flexibility.
The self-healing material could either be applied over the entire screen, or only over the part which bends, Apple noted.
The material will supposedly be able to repair dents and scratches on the display automatically, without the need to activate the process.
Alternatively, the self-healing can be initiated when the display is exposed to heat, light, electric current, or another type of external stimulus.
Apple explained one possibility was the the light emitted by the display itself could activate the process, or heat-transmitting transistors under the display could be used to fix the damage.
The patent was submitted back in January 2020, but it remains to be seen if Apple intends to use the invention in any future iPhones or iPads.
The images below show the basic composition of the self-healing display, as contained in the patent.
The idea of self-healing material for electronic devices is not a new one.
LG’s G Flex 2 included a coating on its rear which could repair minor scratches over time, although it could not heal more substantial damage.
Back in 2017, a group of Japanese researchers from the University of Tokyo discovered that the cracks or breaks in a low weight glass polymer called “polyether-thioureas” could be repaired by pressing pieces together by hand.
Typically, hard substances like glass need to be melted under high heat to be mended, such as appears to be the case with Apple’s design above.
The researchers said this glass could potentially be used in phone displays and other devices to make them more robust and lower the need for replacements.
The potential to damage displays is often a major concern for smartphone owners, as these components have a tendency to crack or break when the device is accidentally dropped.
As a result, the first thing many smartphone buyers do after purchasing a new device is to get a screen protector installed.
This additional sheet of polyurethane or laminated glass bears the brunt of physical impacts and can be cracked without the actual display receiving damage.