"Electronic circuits are very sophisticated these days. But a crack, even an extremely small one, can interrupt the flow of current and eventually lead to the failure of a device," said Jinxing Li, a PhD candidate at the University of California at San Diego (UC San Diego).

"Traditional electronics can be fixed with soldering, but repairing advanced electronics on a nanoscale requires innovation," Li said.

Gadgets will soon be more ubiquitous than ever, appearing in our clothes, implants and accessories, said Li. 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 are integrated in clothes or located in remote places, researchers said. Creating devices that can fix themselves would be ideal, according to Joseph Wang from UC San Diego.