Scientists Made an Unbreakable Smartphone Screen From Clear Electrodes

The truly shatterproof screen is a little bit like the flying car: It's been promised for years, but never arrives. Scientists at University of Akron claim they've cracked the code, so to speak, by creating a super-tough screen out of transparent electrodes.

Right now, your smartphone screen is coated with a clear, conductive substance called indium tin oxide, or ITO. It's used on just about everything—from LCD displays to plasma TVs to cockpit windows on planes. The problem is that it's very expensive, there's a limited supply of it, and it's also pretty fragile. Researchers have been trying to find an alternative for a long time—and a team of polymer engineers in Akron think they've done it.

In a study published in American Chemical Society's journal ACS Nano, an assistant professor of polymer science named Yu Zhu describes a novel method of creating a super-tough conductive screen. Instead of ITO, the team created a mesh of metal electrodes and sandwiched it to a layer of polymer. The result was a super-tough screen that stood up to brutal testing. And most importantly, it's cheap to produce—and not limited to a small supply like ITO.

Scientists Made an Unbreakable Smartphone Screen From Clear Electrodes

According to Zhu, his invention could replace a huge portion of the screens on the market. "We expect this film to emerge on the market as a true ITO competitor," he commented in a press release. "The annoying problem of cracked smartphone screens may be solved once and for all with this flexible touchscreen." Let's hope iCracked has a backup plan—though, as always, we'll believe this when we see it. [PhysOrg; University of Akron]