08
Jun
Touchscreen-Film-500

At this point, we've got some really amazing technology in our smartphones, and not just on the inside. Corning's continued work on their Gorilla Glass has made phone screens amazingly resistant to scratches, and as soon as someone manages to figure out how to make synthetic sapphire faster and cheaper, they'll be even better. But no matter how tough your screen is, it's still glass, and dropping it on the pavement is an almost inevitable recipe for a broken screen. (Just ask David Ruddock.)

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Indium tin oxide (ITO) layers in current touchscreens. Source: Digi-Key

Dr. Yu Zhu of the University of Akron thinks that he and his team have a solution. Current screens are coated in indium tin oxide, a completely transparent substance that's also electrically conductive. Unfortunately indium tin oxide is relatively brittle and prone to shattering, not to mention expensive. Dr. Zhu's team created an alternative that retains the same conductive properties while being more flexible, resisting the impact forces that can shatter conventional screens.

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Zhu, along with professor Darrell Reneker and graduate students Tianda He and Aozhen Xia, published a basic explanation of the new material in the ACS Nano journal. It uses an electrode mesh in between layers of polymer to retain conductivity without the brittle properties of ITO. According to Dr. Zhu, the material will eventually become a competitor to the current manufacturing process, solving the problem of cracked screens "once and for all." We'll see.

Source: University of Akron, ACS Nano via Gizmodo

Michael Crider
Michael is a native Texan and a former graphic designer. He's been covering technology in general and Android in particular since 2011. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.

  • hyperbolic

    Screens won't break with polymer but what about scratches ?

    • https://plus.google.com/+TroyLeonard Troy Leonard

      I have always seen screen protectors as snake oil. They don't protect against impacts and gorilla glass is highly scratch resistant. Plus they often distort the display. But on a scratch prone shatter proof display they might finally find a honest use.

      • Navitron

        I agree those "piece of plastic" screen protectors all make your high quality screen look like poop. One thing that isn't snake oil are tempered glass screen protectors, anyone who has never tried one try it and you will never go back to those crappy plastic ones. They can save a screen also by cracking the screen protector instead of your screen.

        • https://plus.google.com/+TroyLeonard Troy Leonard

          That may be true. But gorilla glass is a "high tech" tempered glass already. I just don't see the need.

          • Navitron

            For me an extra layer of protection. If I decide to sell the phone I can keep the original screen in perfect condition.

          • https://plus.google.com/+TroyLeonard Troy Leonard

            I can see your point. I personally have never used them. But I have my own solution the only thing that ever goes in my left pocket is my phone and ear buds. Knife, keys, and change go in my right pocket. But then again all my phones have had gorilla glass since I ditch my flip phone. Regardless I see this new tech being more exciting than sapphire glass, which is still brittle like normal glass.

          • Christopher Lee

            I've had a few impacts (carelessness) against things harder than Gorilla glass, and was quite pleased with just having to replace a protector. That said, I mostly use them /because/ they modify the screen's appearance-- matte protectors help me see things better when I'm out and about.

            Not to mention that I find bare glass sticky. I love the look and feel, but I hate the latter as soon as I start to move. Plus the endless game of fingerprint wiping.

          • nick

            your knife, keys and change aren't the problem... It's dust which small particles of sand which is the same hardness as your glass allowing it slight scratches as it moves around in your pocket.

    • Duckie1217

      If a screen protector would be compatible, you'd be set.

  • Sourabh Sekhar

    this wont be seeing the light until is made cheap enough and easy enough to manufacture,which i highly doubt.

    • The One

      It doesn't say on this article but its actually cheaper and easier to make

  • NunjaBusiness

    What's tougher than a gorilla?
    OK, "RhinoGlass" maybe? Love it.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/77537273@N03/ Herman

      Still waiting for DinoGlass.
      Now that's an improvement.

      • bobEveryman

        That went extinct a long time ago. Now all we have is OstrichGlass

        • Joshua

          Nope, we always have GatorGlass too.

          • WORPspeed

            Does CoelacanthGlass count?

            What we really need is Cockroach Glass....our phones would outlive us....in true brick Nokia fashion!

          • mjku

            GatorGlass isn't related to OstrichGlass or DinoGlass.

      • flosserelli

        I wouldn't trust anything labeled "Dino-Xxx". Look how well that worked out.

        • faptacular slapNtickle

          hmmm...tell me about your dino porn idea. Is it as good as the penismightier?

      • jgemberton

        DragonGlass, please.

    • Random

      Okay, enough monkey business. Its really starting to sound like a Zhu now... With all these gorrilas and rhinos.

      • heehee

        i see what you did there

    • xellar

      BabboonGlass 6

      • Android Developer

        There is actually "RhinoGlass"

  • David Li

    and like most other techs, don't expect this to ever reach consumer hands within the next 10 years, and only if Samsung or Apple back it

  • someone755

    Am I the only one around here that has never broken the phones screen when dropping it?
    I've only wasted 3 devices in my life by dropping them, with all of them the chips inside broke, the screen stayed the same.

    • flosserelli

      It all depends on how the device hits the ground. Sometimes you get (relatively) lucky, sometimes you don't.

    • Android Developer

      Which devices, may I ask?

      • someone755

        A Nokia phone (can't remember the model digits anymore, but it was a bar-shaped one, no touchscreen, standard keypad), an HTC Desire (the board literally snapped in two pieces), and a cheapo tablet that has been forgotten right after (was actually glad I got rid of it; a single-core tablet in the age of dual-cores).
        Obviously, I only used a screen protector on the Desire.

    • GraveUypo

      i dropped my defy (still use it as my second phone) from a considerable height and the glass stayed intact, but something like 40% of the pixels "died" (blackened). the best part is, they've ALL healed over the course of a week and now the screen is pristine again. go figure.

  • Albert H

    Wow, this is actually pretty big! Remember the ol' days? If you cracked your screen's glass, you typically had to replace the LCD+glass together. If you were handy with a heat gun, you could (with some luck) replace just the glass. Nevertheless, the glass was expensive, and you had to deal with broken glass. Now? Just slide in a film to replace your touchscreen part, and you're good to go! (And less glass = thinner device!)

    ...of course, that means that your LCD is more vulnerable (no glass to absorb the impact), but that's another problem to solve...

  • Derek

    THIS with flexible OLED -> super flexible display?!

    HECK YES.

  • A Popov

    I'll just wait for cheap mass production of sapphire. I have sapphire glass in my watch and it is tough.

    • mjku

      It's also thicker and has a very small surface area compared to the face of a phone.

  • DrakeTungsten

    Aww, I was expecting transparent aluminum.

  • Kohl Helmut

    Sehr gut, sehr gute Handys, Sie verdienen es, lenteen.de zu haben