Wednesday, December 21st 2011

Self-Repairing Circuits On The Horizon, Skynet, Here We Come

Engineers at the University of Illinois have developed what they claim to be "self-repairing electronic circuits", which have the ability to restore broken circuits, and restore the functionality of whatever uses them. The technology works at the level of the PCB design, countless microscopic capsules filled with liquid metal are placed along with everything else, as the circuit board is being made. When the circuit is broken at a point, those micro-capsules break, and the secreted liquid metal gets channeled into the path of the broken portion of circuit, closing it back up (restoring it). This happens at a very small and localized scale, and dramatically increases MTBF (mean time before failure), if done right.

The researchers behind this technology call it an excellent solution for electronics that are supposed to be fail-safe, such as avionics, electronics running commercial aircraft, so broken circuits could fix themselves mid-air, and become operational within microseconds. Terms like "self healing electronics" and "liquid metal" instantly bring back pop-culture references to Hollywood epics such as the Terminator, and its dystopian future brought about when one of those self-healing circuits is also made "self-aware". And no, those are just surface-mounted capacitors in the picture.
Sources: The Verge, Wiley Online Library
Add your own comment

26 Comments on Self-Repairing Circuits On The Horizon, Skynet, Here We Come

#2
TheMailMan78
Big Member
It uses gallium which I need to read up on because its liquid form is much warmer then the usual ambient.
Posted on Reply
#3
qubit
Overclocked quantum bit
This tech sounds wicked. :rockout:

btarunr said:
And no, those are just surface-mounted capacitors in the picture.
Nah, you're wrong there. Those are Skynet spores about to burst and replicate. You've been fooled again bta, muhahaha!!! :laugh:
Posted on Reply
#4
LAN_deRf_HA
What type of defects cause the horrendous yields most chips suffer from? Could this get us near 100%?
Posted on Reply
#5
N-Gen
Very impressive indeed.
Posted on Reply
#6
newtekie1
Semi-Retired Folder
TheMailMan78 said:
It uses gallium which I need to read up on because its liquid form is much warmer then the usual ambient.
AFAIK, Gallium is solid at room temperature, but turns to liquid at slightly above room temp, it melts in your hand.

There are different alloys that either are liquid at room temperature, or stay solid at higher temps.
Posted on Reply
#7
theJesus
LAN_deRf_HA said:
What type of defects cause the horrendous yields most chips suffer from? Could this get us near 100%?
From my understanding, this only deals with the PCBs and has nothing to do with the actual chips. This is for when a trace on the PCB develops a tiny crack or something, it just gets filled back in. It should save people from having to bake their graphics cards in an oven to fix bad traces :laugh:
Posted on Reply
#8
N-Gen
theJesus said:
From my understanding, this only deals with the PCBs and has nothing to do with the actual chips. This is for when a trace on the PCB develops a tiny crack or something, it just gets filled back in. It should save people from having to bake their graphics cards in an oven to fix bad traces :laugh:
Or baking your aircraft mid flight. They should make self repairing game controllers, big market for that lol
Posted on Reply
#9
Benetanegia
newtekie1 said:
AFAIK, Gallium is solid at room temperature, but turns to liquid at slightly above room temp, it melts in your hand.

There are different alloys that either are liquid at room temperature, or stay solid at higher temps.
Around 30º Celsius, so I wonder how it really works. I get it's a very limited temporal fix because being so easy to melt, it's going to be liquid nearly all the time in any kind of circuit and any movement will spill it all over the place too.
Posted on Reply
#10
TheMailMan78
Big Member
Benetanegia said:
Around 30º Celsius, so I wonder how it really works. I get it's a very limited temporal fix because being so easy to melt, it's going to be liquid nearly all the time in any kind of circuit and any movement will spill it all over the place too.
Well the Gallium is sealed in a "capsule" which breaks when the circuit does. The entire circuit is made of these capsules. I mean I just don't know how it becomes solid again AFTER the break. The Gallium would have to be doped perfect to bond. I mean PERFECT. Also what I meant about "usual ambient" is in avionics. Like at 30,000 feet. Sorry my mind trying to wrap itself around this.



The the channel is littered with those lil Gallium eggs. In theory I guess it would never have to become solid again as it would be trapped in the channel. I mean IMO its not a permanent solution but its a great safety net.
Posted on Reply
#11
Delta6326
Well if these are not permanent then will they make it so it can be detected, so say your mid flight one pops open a signal gets sent to the cab that there was a problem, but now it's fixed so once they land they can "fix" the problem.:confused: Would be cool:rockout:
Posted on Reply
#12
cadaveca
My name is Dave
theJesus said:
It should save people from having to bake their graphics cards in an oven to fix bad traces
baking cards is done because the lead-free solder used in todays parts, if not hte perfect type, can crack and split after cycling through load and idle many times. heating the part allows the sodler to flow back together, fixing the circuit. It's usually the solder balls under teh GPU package that are affected(as well as in all those laptops with nVidia GPUs that failed and the XBOX360 GPU issues).


this seems to be tech to repair PCB damages, not solder damages.
Posted on Reply
#13
TheMailMan78
Big Member
Delta6326 said:
Well if these are not permanent then will they make it so it can be detected, so say your mid flight one pops open a signal gets sent to the cab that there was a problem, but now it's fixed so once they land they can "fix" the problem.:confused: Would be cool:rockout:
Well it could also be permanent if the channel is sealed with a non conductive "Roof" and "Floor". Looking at that graph it seems to be what they are doing. If so then......

Posted on Reply
#15
joyman
This sounds really great. They need to adapt this tech to rubber dolls - supreme tech innovation. :cool:
Posted on Reply
#16
newtekie1
Semi-Retired Folder
TheMailMan78 said:
Well the Gallium is sealed in a "capsule" which breaks when the circuit does. The entire circuit is made of these capsules. I mean I just don't know how it becomes solid again AFTER the break. The Gallium would have to be doped perfect to bond. I mean PERFECT. Also what I meant about "usual ambient" is in avionics. Like at 30,000 feet. Sorry my mind trying to wrap itself around this.

http://img.techpowerup.org/111221/mcontent.jpg

The the channel is littered with those lil Gallium eggs. In theory I guess it would never have to become solid again as it would be trapped in the channel. I mean IMO its not a permanent solution but its a great safety net.
Well I could see a few things being possible:

A.) There are two different capsules. One with the Gallium substance and another with another chemical. When the capsules are broken the Gallium flows into the broken circuit, and the second chemical causes it to harden after certain amount of time, giving the Gallium enough time to flow into the break.

B.) The surface of the circuit is coated in a chemical that reacts with the Gallium substance and causes the Gallium to harden once the capsule is broken.

C.) The electric current flowing through the circuit causes the Gallium substance to harden. The substance would obviously have to reactive to this type of thing, and I don't know if that is possible(though this might be part of their breakthrough).
Posted on Reply
#17
DigitalUK
this doesnt sound that great really apart from the headline title, as most failures i see are down to components (caps, resistors etc) not down to the tracks breaking, which is pretty rare thing.
Posted on Reply
#18
Super XP
I can see this working in future Space Craft, sometime 15 to 20 years in the future from today.
Posted on Reply
#19
ViperXTR
i reckon Master Chief will be using this tech soon? Health/Shield regeneration and all D:
Posted on Reply
#20
Benetanegia
DigitalUK said:
this doesnt sound that great really apart from the headline title, as most failures i see are down to components (caps, resistors etc) not down to the tracks breaking, which is pretty rare thing.
Do you work for the aircraft industry? Because I certainly don't, but even from near complete ignorance on the matter, I can totally envision lots of micro-cracks on the PCBs because of the extreme temperature changes that avionics face off. It's a constant cycle of expansion and contraction of materials.
Posted on Reply
#21
DigitalUK
yes from the vibration on aircraft etc maybe a different story (i have no aircraft experience either), i missed the part at the bottom as it was getting late about being directed towards the aviation industry. i was thinking more of home electronics etc..
Posted on Reply
#22
THE_EGG
Now all I need is this technology installed onto my car. :D
Posted on Reply
#25
white phantom
impressive but theres always one or two weaknesses when the machines take over if you implement them into nearly everything then voila stop the rise lol...plugs and non-water resistant electronics so when big arny comes for a visit i will simply just have a pee on him n veep veeep bang end of terminator ....naw yar no coming back :laugh: :laugh:
Posted on Reply
Add your own comment