Thursday, June 5, 2014

Silver Nanostructures Create Versatile Transparent Conductor

Tucked away on a table at the end of a booth in the far left part of the Display Week 2014 Exhibit Hall sat a glass toaster.  This is an incongruous device to be put on view at a display technology show, but it was an intriguing part of the larger story about a new transparent conductor material from Cima NanoTech.

The company produces a material that it calls “SANTE,” which is based on a self-organizing silver layer that forms random nanostructures that are so small that they are effectively transparent. The high conductivity of the sliver layer makes it well suited for a variety of applications, especially in creating projected capacitive touch panels for displays. In fact, Cima NanoTech had demonstrations that did not even require that you touch the surface of the display; the panel could detect the presence of a finger hovering above it.

The silver material creates random nanostructures that are similar to the patterns left behind when soap suds dry on a surface. The random nature eliminates the moiré artifacts that can appear when the touch panel has a grid structure. The high conductivity delivers high performance even with large displays. The company showed a 42-inch panel created in partnership with Silicon Integrated Systems Corp. (SiS) that supported 10-point touch operating at 150 Hz.

The conductive layer is deposited as a wet coat that self-assembles on the substrate. It can be placed on glass or plastic film. Using plastic film, it creates touch screens that are lightweight, durable, and flexible.

The silver layer has other applications, however. If you run enough current through it, it heats up. This means that you can put a transparent conductive layer on anything from a car windshield to ski goggles, and the heating can defrost and defog the device. And that leads us back to the glass toaster. Initially created as a technology demonstration, engineers wanted to show that the material could get hot enough to cook toast. And it works. In fact, some manufacturers have expressed interest in actually creating a production version of the design. – Alfred Poor

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