Silver and gold nanowires can improve touch screen flexibility and durability, say scientists from Stanford University.
Rather than the protective glass that shatters when dropped, wires can be embedded in flexible plastics, which can reduce the weight and increase the longevity of touch screen devices, say researchers.
"It's a roll-to-roll process, just like printing newspapers. It's extremely fast and can be done at a very low cost," Discovery News quoted Yu Cui, a scientist at Stanford University and co-author of the paper, as saying.
Touch screens made from thin plastic coated with silver and gold could be produced much more quickly than glass plates - up to 100 times faster in fact.
Even though the screens are made with silver and gold, they are still cheap, said Cui. The total amount of precious metals in each screen is so small that it doesn't significantly increase the price.
The connections between the silver nanowires are good, but not great, said Cui. His group managed to improve the electrical conductivity of the nanowires by fusing them together with tiny amounts of gold.
The team is also trying to create longer, thinner silver nanowires, which will make the screen even more transparent and improve conduction of electricity through them.
The thin metal mesh formed by the nanowires is flexible and sticks to a variety of materials. When applied to plastic, the material can be bent, flexed or dropped, and the screen won't crack and will still conduct an electrical charge.
The silver nanowires could also be used as electrodes for solar cells that can turn light into electricity, said Cui. Flexible silver and gold nanowire screens could replace the hard, glass-based electrodes.
Unlike many technologies that have a significant lag time between development and application, Cui says his technique could be used "immediately."
The same machines that produce tons of newspapers every day could instead assemble rolls and rolls of touch screens and electrodes for solar panels.
The study has been described in the journal ACS Nano. (ANI)