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Scientists Create Shatterproof Phone Screens

New Electrode Could Lead to Shatterproof Smartphone Displays
(Photo : The University of Akron) A transparent layer of electrodes on a polymer surface could be extraordinarily tough and flexible, withstanding repeated scotch tape peeling and bending tests, providing for a shatterproof smartphone touchscreen.

Too many of us are carrying shattered phones because we can't afford new screens. However, scientists from the University of Akron may have discovered a solution to save fragile phones from their dilapidated doom.

Lead researcher Yu Zhu, assistant professor of polymer science at University of Akron, and his team created a transparent electrode that could make phones shatterproof.

Zhu and his team found that that a transparent layer of electrodes on a polymer surface helps boost surface toughness and flexibility. Researchers said that latest findings were proven with repeated scotch tape peeling and bending tests.

Researchers said the latest study could transform and replace traditional touch screens, which have coatings that are made of brittle indium tin oxide (ITO). Not only are ITOs weaker, they are also more expensive to manufacture.

"These two pronounced factors drive the need to substitute ITO with a cost-effective and flexible conductive transparent film," Zhu said in a news release.

He noted that the new film will be just as transparent as the traditional ITO, and may even offer greater conductivity.

Study data revealed that the novel film retained its shape and functionality after being bent over 1,000 times. Researchers believe that the latest invention could be produced in cheap, mass-quantity rolls.

"We expect this film to emerge on the market as a true ITO competitor," Zhu says. "The annoying problem of cracked smart phone screens may be solved once and for all with this flexible touch screen."

The findings are published in the journal ACS Nano.

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Jun 06, 2014 07:23 PM EDT

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