Wednesday, June 07, 2017 by Bridgette Wilcox
Cracked smartphone screens can be incredibly frustrating, but a new “miracle material” being developed by scientists from all over the world promises to put that to an end. The material is a combination of semiconducting molecules C60, and layered materials including graphene, and hBN, ScienceDaily.com reported.
“The winning combination works because hBN provides stability, electronic compatibility, and isolation charge to graphene while C60 can transform sunlight into electricity,” the report said. The assembly is held together by Van der Waals forces that bind neutral molecules to each other.
The project was done by a team from Queen’s University in Belfast, Ireland in collaboration with scientists from Stanford University, University of California, California State University, and the National Institute for Materials Science in Japan. Among the scientists on the team was Dr. Elton Santos, who initially came up with the theory that combining hBN, graphene, and C60 could create a solid material that has new physical and chemical properties.
The team found Santos’ theory to be accurate, after conducting several experiments to test it.
“Our findings show that this new ‘miracle material’ has similar physical properties to Silicon but it has improved chemical stability, lightness, and flexibility, which could potentially be used in smart devices and would be much less likely to break,” study lead Dr. Elton Santos said in the report. “The material could also mean that devices use less energy than before because of the device architecture so could have improved battery life and less electric shocks.”
The researchers are continuing to look into solutions for potential problems that may arise with such a material. For instance, the graphene and the architecture of the new material does not have the characteristic that allows for the on-off switching operations necessary in electronic devices.The team is now exploring transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) as a potential solution.
“By using these findings, we have now produced a template but in future we hope to add an additional feature with TMDs. These are semiconductors, which by-pass the problem of the band gap, so we now have a real transistor on the horizon,” Santos said.
Most mobile phones out on the market today are made up of glass, metal, and plastic. According to TechWalla.com, glass is the most common material seen in current mobile phone models, with the material comprising most smartphone screens. However, depending on the brand, most glass screens break easily, particularly when dropped or sat on. Glass typically used for mobile phones are made from aluminum oxide and silicon dioxide, along with a very thin layer of indium tin oxide that allows users to touch the screen without any significant damage. A more lighter, tougher glass — Gorilla Glass — is being used on top tier phones by several top brands such as Motorola and Samsung.
At the same time, some manufacturers are mulling the use of sapphire — the same crystal being used in high-end jewelry — to make mobile phone screens more durable and resistant to scratches. A crystallized form of aluminum oxide, sapphire is almost as strong as a diamond, measuring nine on the Mohs mineral hardness scale (a diamond measures 10).
The substance has been used in products that range from luxury watches to military vehicles — and even smartphones, though not for the screen. Apple has in fact been using sapphire for the fingerprint sensors and camera lenses since the iPhone 5, TechRadar.com reported. While the crystal has not been used on smartphone screens yet, doing so could make screens crack-free and resistant to scratches.
Whether its sapphires or a special new material altogether, it would appear that more durable smartphones are right on the horizon.
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