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Gadget heals self before you know it's broken

A team of Univ. of Illinois engineers has developed a self-healing system that restores electrical conductivity to a cracked circuit in less time than it takes to blink.

Gadgets are great. We're enticed to buy new ones every few years. Sometimes that's because the new features are too awesome to resist, but other times we're simply buying replacements. As cool as gadgets are, they are prone to break and hard, if not impossible, to repair.

That frustration of throwing away perfectly good technology just because it doesn't work may be history, thanks to a "self-healing" electronics developed by engineers at the University of Illinois.

This system restores electrical conductivity to a cracked circuit in less time than it takes to blink, the university reports. It does this with tiny microcapsules on top of a gold line functioning as a circuit in a chip.

"As a crack propagates, the microcapsules break open and release the liquid metal contained inside. The liquid metal fills the gap in the circuit, restoring electrical flow," reads a new release on the technology.

While this technology could find a home in gadgets, the reality is you'll still want to replace them every few years to take advantage of technological leaps. But for other uses, such a ship en route to Mars, self-healing electronics could be a life saver.

For more information, check out the news release on the study reported in the journal Advanced Materials as well as the video above with lead author Scott White, a professor of aerospace engineering.

More on self-healing tech:

John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. To learn more about him, check out his website. For more of our Future of Technology series, watch the featured video below.

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