Someday, the plastic that makes up your cell phone might be able to regenerate itself when damaged, if researchers from the University of Southern Missouri have their way. At the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, Professor Marek W. Urban, Ph.D. introduced research on plastics that change color when damaged and then regenerate themselves when exposed to light. Urban said that "our new plastic tries to mimic nature, issuing a red signal when damaged and then renewing itself when exposed to visible light, temperature or pH changes."

Urban's group made this happen through the development of plastics with molecular bridges that connect the chemicals that make up your average piece of plastic — a scratch or break will cause the bridges to break and change shape. Scientists were able to tweak the plastics so when the bridges changed shape, the color changed to red. Then, when introduced to sunlight or an ordinary light bulb, as well as pH or temperature changes, the bridges reform, the marks are healed, and the red marking goes away. Apparently, this healing process can take place multiple times — so if you drop your phone on its corner more than once, it should continue to heal itself.

This technology isn't widely available yet, but Nissan (yes, the automotive maker) introduced a self-healing iPhone case earlier this year, using technology from the University of Tokyo. There's no word on when we might see this technology in future mobile devices, and that doesn't appear to be the focus or Urban's team — his team is working on incorporating this technology into plastics that can withstand extreme heat, a condition that isn't common for your average mobile phone.