Smartphones of the future could have touchscreens made of transparent silver

The screens developed by University of Michigan would be tarnish-proof, and can be used for devices with flexible screens as well.

University of Michigan researchers have developed a transparent film out of silver, that can be used for the touchscreens of the future. The resulting screens would be tarnish-proof, and can be used for devices with flexible screens as well.

The film is the thinnest, smoothest layer of silver that can survive exposure to air. The silver material also has the potential to improve the computational power of the device by offering better transfer of information within a silicon chip.

The silver was combined with very little amounts of aluminium to make a film that would not tarnish on exposure to air. By applying a coating that prevents the silver from reflecting light, the researchers were able to create a film that is 92.4 percent transparent. By layering the silver film into a metamaterial hyperlens, the researchers could create dense patterns with features smaller than what is possible on other materials. The resulting chip offers better computational power than say silicon chips.

The current generation of touchscreens are dependent on one material, indium tin oxide. There are relatively few known sources of indium, and the prices of the material are rising sharply with an increase in demand for touchscreens. Silver has the necessary characteristics to be a worthy successor.

The research paper is titled "High-performance Doped Silver Films: Overcoming Fundamental Material Limits for Nanophotonic Applications" and has been published in Advanced Materials.

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