In 2016, touch screens are ubiquitous. The idea of a smartphone or tablet not equipped with a touch-sensitive, ‘swipeable’ screen is almost unthinkable. While the technology itself is well-established and reliable, there are a couple of issues that may limit future iterations of the much-used touch screen.
The most common touch screens operate via a capacitive system, which relies on a layer of material capable of storing electrical charge coated onto the glass panel. When the glass is touched, the charge within the material changes and this is sensed by software, which pinpoints exactly where the touch occurred, and responds accordingly.
The material most commonly used as the coating is Indium Tin Oxide (ITO) because of two key properties – its electrical conductivity and optical transparency. However, ITO does have limitations. Indium is relatively expensive and has some high supply risk elements, which makes for a costly and somewhat uncertain component for manufacturers.
Additionally, while ITO performs well on a rigid glass screen, it is relatively brittle and is known to have performance issues on flexible displays, which is an area predicted to see significant growth in the coming years within the electronics industry. Silver has long been recognized as a potential replacement for ITO. It has excellent electrical conductivity and, if manufactured as nanoparticles or nanowires, good optical transparency.
It also has advantages from a manufacturing perspective, such as room temperature processing. Indeed, the combination of these properties has already seen the technology gain traction in the electronics sector. Large consumer electronics companies such as LG, HP and Lenovo are already using silver nanowires in some of their products. But, what next?
Silver prices fell below $18.50/oz today - tough times for silver bugs at the moment.....
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