Apr 25, 2017 | Updated: 06:22 PM EDT

Scientists Develop 3D-Printed Gold And Silver Touchscreen Technology

Jan 11, 2016 12:16 AM EST

Touchscreen
(Photo : Reuters) Gold and silver have higher electrical conductivity than indium tin oxide that should result in better performance.

Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich University scientists had developed a technology on transparent electrodes. This can be used in touchscreens that may revolutionise the experience on devices.

The new type of electrodes is made through 3D-printing technology that takes the form of a gold and silver grid on glass surface. The current technology on touchscreens is made up of conductive materials that have electrodes barely visible to the human eye. Touchscreen can sense electric charge even those coming from human skin.

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The research team led by Dimos Poulikakos, a professor of thermodynamics at ETH University in Zurich, Switzerland, developed a touchscreen technology made of gold or silver nanowalls. These nanowalls have higher conductivity and are more transparent the standard material indium tin oxide. By using gold or silver, the screen quality and precision of touchscreen displays should significantly increase.

'Indium tin oxide is used because the material has a relatively high degree of transparency and the production of thin layers has been well researched, but it is only moderately conductive,' Patrik Rohner, a PhD student in Poulikakos' team, added.

Gold and silver were chosen by the team of scientists because of their higher electricity conductivity than indium tin oxide. These metals are not transparent in their usual form; hence, the scientists had to make use of the 3D.

'If you want to achieve both high conductivity and transparency in wires made from these metals, you have a conflict of objectives. As the cross-sectional area of gold and silver wires grows, the conductivity increases, but the grid's transparency decreases,' Poulikakos elaborated.

The team used metal walls (through 3D ink-jet printing) that are only 80 to 500 nanometers thick, essentially invisible to the naked eye. The walls are two to four times taller than they are wide giving the material a significantly higher conductivity. The printing process is called "Nanodrip" because the metallic ink was accumulated drop by drop unto the grid. 

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