Conventional touchscreens often use coatings made of indium tin oxide (ITO) which are  brittle, may shatter and increasingly costly to manufacture but polymer scientists have developed a transparent electrode that could make displays shatterproof.

In a recent paper, they demonstrated how a transparent layer of electrodes on a polymer surface could be extraordinarily tough and flexible, withstanding repeated scotch tape peeling and bending tests.  

"These two pronounced factors drive the need to substitute ITO with a cost-effective and flexible conductive transparent film," says Yu Zhu, University of Akron assistant professor of polymer science, adding that the new film provides the same degree of transparency as ITO, yet offers greater conductivity. The novel film retains its shape and functionality after tests in which it has been bent 1,000 times. Due to its flexibility, the transparent electrode can be fabricated in economical, mass-quantity rolls.




A transparent layer of electrodes on a polymer surface could be extraordinarily tough and flexible, withstanding repeated scotch tape peeling and bending tests, providing for a shatterproof smartphone touchscreen. Credit: The University of Akron

"We expect this film to emerge on the market as a true ITO competitor," Zhu says. "The annoying problem of cracked smartphone screens may be solved once and for all with this flexible touchscreen.