A few months ago, we wrote about a survey that found that iPhone users had spent $6 billion on replacing and repairing broken phones with the majority of that cost going to fixing or replacing cracked screens from drops and falls. At the time, the best solution seemed to be always using a bumper or protective cover and a whole lot of cautiousness, but it seems the solution just might be a better material than glass.
Japanese researchers have created a super-strong, extremely scratch-resistant and bendable plastic that could replace the glass smartphone and tablet screen covers and lead to more durable gadgets with a longer life and, hopefully, less e-waste caused by our inevitable clumsiness.
TechOn reports that, "The sheet is actually a sandwich of three components: a fingerprint proof layer on the front and a plastic substrate coated with a hardening agent on the back. The result is a sheet of plastic just 0.5mm thick that can be manufactured in virtually any size."
The plastic material was developed by Japanese AV equipment maker Dai Nippon Printing (DNP) and is reportedly as hard as the go-to material for smartphones and tablets these days, gorilla glass. But it trumps gorilla glass with a crazy resistance to scratching. Researchers rubbed the samples with steel wool 200 times, with 500g/cm2 of pressure applied and not a single scratch occurred.
The other major benefit to the plastic is its flexibility. Not only does flexibility help it not to break, but bendable smartphones and tablets are seen as the future of gadgets, especially if they're able to harness piezoelectric energy from being bent and manipulated. Researchers have also been working on flexible batteries to work with bendable electronics.
The great thing about this better smartphone cover is that it could be on our devices very soon. DNP said it plans to ship sample sheets of the material to manufacturers this month and expects sales of $121 million by 2014.