Fortunately, a research collaboration between the
The research was conducted by graduate student
Their study was published in the journal ACS Nano.
The current industry-standard material for making transparent conductors is indium tin oxide, or ITO, which is deposited as two thin layers on either side of a separator film. Contact, in the form of a fingertip or a stylus, changes the electrical resistance between the two ITO layers enough so that the device can register where the user is touching. While this material performs well, its drawbacks have led industrial and academic researchers to look for alternatives.
"There are two problems with ITO; indium is relatively rare, so its cost and availability are erratic, and, more importantly for flexible devices, it's brittle," Winey said. "We'd like to make touchscreens that use a network of thin, flexible nanowires, but predicting and optimizing the properties of these nanoscale networks has been a challenge."
A uniform sheet's overall quality in this context depends on only two parameters, both of which can be reliably derived from the bulk material's properties: its transparency, which should be high, and its overall electrical resistance, which should be low. To determine the electrical properties for a network of nanowires, however, one needs to know the nanowires' length and diameter, the area they cover and a property known as contact resistance, which is the amount of resistance that results from electrons traveling from one wire to another. The details of how these four independent parameters impact the electrical and optical properties of nanowire networks have been unclear.
"What this means is that people will synthesize nanowires, deposit them in a network, measure the network's overall electrical resistance and optical properties and then claim victory when they get a good one," Winey said. "The problem is that they don't know why the good ones are good, and, worse, they don't necessarily know why the bad ones are bad."
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