New touchscreen technology for gen-next smartphones, TVs

The study, led by Professor Alan Dalton, investigated some of the intricacies of patterning silver nanowire films to produce detailed electrode structures.

By: PTI | London | Published:September 15, 2016 7:24 pm

Scientists are developing a new touchscreen technology that may lead to extremely small patterns (pixels) for high definition LCD displays such as smartphones and next generation of TV and computer screens.

Physicists at the University of Sussex in the UK are at an advanced stage of the alternative touchscreen technology to overcome the shortfall in the traditional display, phone and tablet material that relies on electrodes made from indium tin oxide (ITO).

They have now shown that not only is the material suitable for touchscreens, but that it is possible to produce extremely small patterns (pixels), small enough for high definition LCD displays, such as smartphones and the next generation of television and computer screens.

The study, led by Professor Alan Dalton, investigated some of the intricacies of patterning silver nanowire films to produce detailed electrode structures.

Previous research by Dalton’s group has shown that silver nanowires not only match the transmittances and conductivities of ITO films but exceed them. This makes the material very attractive for touch screens.

However, the group has now shown, for the first time, that this type of nanomaterial is compatible with more demanding applications such as LCD and OLED displays.

“Display technologies such as LCD and OLED form images using pixels. Each pixel of these displays is further broken down into subpixels; typically, one each for red, green and blue colours,” Dalton said.

“In the display in a smartphone, for example, these subpixels are less than a sixth of the width of a human hair – which is also similar in length to the silver nanowires used in our research,” he said.

“In this research we have applied a mathematical technique to work out the smallest subpixel size we can make without affecting the properties of our nanowire electrodes,” lead author Matthew Large said.

“This method was originally developed to describe how phase changes like freezing happen in very small spaces. The results tell us how to tune our nanowires to meet the requirements of any given application,” said Large.

In collaboration with their industrial partners, M-SOLV based in Oxford, the team – which is now looking to apply these research results to commercial projects – has also demonstrated that the incorporation of silver nanowires into a multi-touch sensor actually reduces the production cost and energy usage.

“Silver nanowire and silver nanowire/graphene hybrids are probably the most viable alternatives to existing technologies, said Dalton.

“Others scientists have studied several alternative materials, but the main issue is that the majority of other materials do not effectively compete with ITO or they are too costly to produce, at least at the moment,” he said.

The research was published in the journal Nanoscale.