Smashed phone screens may be a thing of the past as scientists at the University of Sussex have invented a new type of unbreakable flexible touchscreen made from silver and graphene.

Current touchscreens are easily smashed due to the fragile materials they are made of, and are also expensive to replace due to the difficult process involved in extracting them from the ground.
The new touchscreen does not require the protective top layer of glass as it will be made of a far more flexible material like acrylic. What’s more, the new combination of materials matches the performance of regular screens, and also cost far less to produce.

Dr Matthew Large, lead researcher on the project at the School of Maths and Physical Science at the University of Sussex, told The Telegraph: “The reason that the screen on your phone is so easy to break is that the touch sensor is based on indium tin oxide (ITO). This material is very brittle, so needs to be deposited on a strong, hard surface like glass.

“It’s the glass layer that cracks if you drop your phone on a hard surface, or sit down on it by accident. Our latest development does away with the need for the hard glass surface because the silver nanowire-graphene hybrid films we produce are very flexible.

“We would still need a protective surface but it could be something far more flexible than glass. As a result, your smartphone screen would be far, far less likely to crack when you drop it accidentally.”

Similarly, Professor Alan Dalton from the school of Maths and Physical Science at Sussex, commented: “It would be relatively simple to combine silver nanowires and graphene in this way on a large scale using spraying machines and patterned rollers. This means that brittle mobile phone screens might soon be a thing of the past.”

“The addition of graphene to the silver nanowire network also increases its ability to conduct electricity by around a factor of ten thousand.

“This means we can use a fraction of the amount of silver to get the same, or better, performance. As a result, screens will be more responsive and use less power.”

Dr Large added: “This paves the way towards one day developing completely flexible devices.”

The new research has been published in the American Chemical Society journal Langmuir.

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