When you buy a smartphone it'll likely have a plastic, glass or metal body, but in the future you might not get these options – instead, your handset could be made of a new custom polymer.
Researchers at MIT recently unveiled a new polymer material, after several years working on it, that could have a big impact on what future smartphones, and other tech products, are made of.
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The most important feature in the custom polymer is that instead of containing heat, like the back of your smartphone will do when the device heats up, the material will conduct it much more efficiently. This means a phone will be able to cool much easier, and won't heat up as much when used intensively.
On top of that the researchers have spent a long time working on an efficient and cheap manufacturing process. The material would be a lot cheaper to produce than the glass and metal of premium phones, and manufacturers could reduce costs by embracing it.
The material is also significantly thinner than your typical handset case, so future phones could be a little thinner – but they could also be a little more delicate too, depending on how strong the polymer is.
At the moment the custom polymer isn't ready for commercial use, so even if manufacturers do choose to use it in their phones (which there's no guarantee of), it'll be a while until we see phones made up of it.
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Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.
He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. He also currently works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.