There's a growing trend of trading in your smartphone for an old-school cell phone and it's happening for many reasons, one of which is the fragility of smartphones. If you're a smartphone user, you've very likely dealt with a cracked or shattered screen before and the solution isn't cheap and often isn't very green either. It's usually cheaper to get a new phone than it is to fix the one you have, meaning more e-waste to go round.
But many of us, myself included, still stick by our smartphones because of how much we can accomplish with them. They have replaced the need for a digital camera, GPS device, mp3 player and several other gadgets, but we want our smartphones to last as well as be really useful.
Researchers at Ohio's University of Akron think they have found the solution: a coating for smartphone glass made up of copper nanowires that makes the screens more flexible and all-around tougher.
Most smartphones today use a coating of indium tin oxide, also known as ITO. ITO is electrically conductive and transparent, but it's also brittle, so it does nothing to protect from cracks and shatters.
The new coating that the team has created consists of a network of linked copper nanowires that can be deposited directly on rigid glass or flexible polymer sheets through a process that is scalable for mass production.
The researchers tested the coating on transparent polymer and it retained its conductivity after having Scotch tape repeatedly applied to and removed from the surface and it was bent 1,000 times without any loss of conductivity. Because this coating could be used on polymer sheets and not just glass, rugged, flexible, shatterproof polymer touchscreens could be possible in the future.