Researchers from the University of Sydney have discovered a new material that can replace Indium to make touch screens of devices like smartphones as they believe that the world could soon run out of Indium, one of the rarest minerals on Earth.
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" The ever-increasing usage of smart phones and touch panels are set to exacerbate the potential shortage of indium in the future," Behnam Akhavan, Senior Lecturer in the University of Sydney said in his blog on The Conversation.
Indium is used in several high-tech devices such as touch screens, smart phones, solar panels and smart windows, in the form of indium tin oxide. This compound is optically transparent and electrically conductive, the two crucial features required for touch screens to work.
However, researchers believe that there is no guaranteed long-term supply of indium as it is naturally found only in tiny traces and is impractical to mine directly. Almost all of the world’s indium comes as a by-product of zinc.
They expect the new coating made of an ultra-thin layer of silver, sandwiched between two layers of tungsten oxide to be an alternative to Indium.
"Our new indium-free technology holds great potential to manufacture the next-generation touch-screen devices such as smart phones or electronic papers, as well as smart windows and solar cells for environmental sustainability," said Akhavan.
The new touch-screen film is created and coated onto glass using plasma technology. The entire process takes only a few minutes, produces minimal waste, is cheaper than using indium, and can be used for any glass surface such as a phone screen or window.
Plasma is like a soup of charged particles in which electrons have been ripped away from their atoms and is often described as the fourth state of matter, after solid, liquid and gas. Our Sun, like most stars, is essentially a giant ball of glowing plasma.