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Thank, Science! Researchers Create Crack-Proof Smartphone Screen

Say goodbye to expensive cracked cellphone screen repairs and hello to a cheaper alternative.

Scientists from the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom have created a way to make a screen protector that will keep your phone shattering at a fraction of the cost. The material made from graphene and silver nanowires is extremely flexible so the top layer of coating wouldn’t need to be made of glass. It could be made of something like acrylic.

Dr Matthew Large, the lead researcher on the project at the School of Maths and Physical Science at the University of Sussex, spoke with The Telegraph.

“The reason that the screen on your phone is so easy to break is that the touch sensor is based on indium tin oxide (ITO). This material is very brittle, so needs to be deposited on a strong, hard surface like glass. It’s the glass layer that cracks if you drop your phone on a hard surface, or sit down on it by accident,” Large said. “Our latest development does away with the need for the hard glass surface because the silver nanowire-graphene hybrid films we produce are very flexible. We would still need a protective surface but it could be something far more flexible than glass. As a result your smart phone screen would be far, far less likely to crack when you drop it accidentally.”

Almost 85% of Americans 18 to 29-years-old own their own smartphone today, and with each passing year that percentage inches closer to 100%. With that many people owning a phone, creating something that would prevent costly cracked screen repairs would save consumers a lot of money. Screens currently are so fragile because they are made from indium tin oxide and covered with glass, which is why phones can shatter so easily when dropped.

Because people use their cell phones throughout the day, every day, virtually every cell phone will be dropped eventually. Unfortunately, this new shatterproof smartphone screen isn’t quite ready for release.

Even though this new form of screen is made from silver and graphene, it’s important to note that silver is a rare metal. However, only a small amount of silver is used to coat an area mixed with graphene. Graphene is made from graphite, which allows the cost to be small enough to be attractive to phone manufacturers (hopefully).

Professor Alan Dalton from the school of Maths and Physical Science at Sussex, also spoke with The Telegraph about the screens.

“The addition of graphene to the silver nanowire network also increases its ability to conduct electricity by around a factor of ten thousand, Dalton said. “This means we can use a fraction of the amount of silver to get the same, or better, performance. As a result screens will be more responsive and use less power.”

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