“Electronic circuits are very sophisticated these days,” says Jinxing Li. “But a crack, even an extremely small one, can interrupt the flow of current and eventually lead to the failure of a device. Traditional electronics can be fixed with soldering, but repairing advanced electronics on a nanoscale requires innovation.”
Gadgets will soon be more ubiquitous than ever, appearing in our clothes, implants and accessories, says Li, a Ph.D. candidate in the lab of Joseph Wang, D.Sc., at the University of California at San Diego. But finding ways to fix nanocircuits, battery electrodes or other electronic components when they break remains a challenge.
Replacing whole devices or even parts can be tricky or expensive, particularly if they’re integrated in clothes or located in remote places. Creating devices that can fix themselves would be ideal, according to Wang, whose lab develops nanoscale machines. To work toward this goal, his lab and others have turned to nature for ideas.