Transparent Metal Films Developed For Smartphones, Tablets And TV Displays

Posted: Dec 16 2015, 7:24am CST | by , Updated: Dec 16 2015, 10:00pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

Transparent Metal Films developed for Smartphones, Tablets and TV Displays
A figure showing the crystal structure of strontium vanadate(orange) and calcium vanadate (blue). The red dots are oxygen atoms arranged in 8 octohedra surrounding a single strontium or calcium atom. Vanadium atoms can be seen inside each octahedron. Credit: Lei Zhang/Penn State
  • Transparent Metallic Films are the Ideal Stuff for iPhones, Tablets and Television Displays

Transparent metallic films are better for the digital screens of iphones, tablets and television displays. They are the most suitable material for these high tech goods.

A new material happens to be highly transparent and very conductive in an electrical way. This could make large screen TV displays, smart phones and touch screens not to mention solar cells more economical and efficient in their functioning.

Researchers and scientists at Penn State University have found out such materials that fulfill the requirements for such a wide variety of gadgets.

Indium Tin Oxide (ITO) is being currently used for the majority of the electronic items on the market. It has been like this for the last two generations or so.

However, in the last ten years, Indium has become a very expensive commodity. Displays and touchscreen modules are employed in mobiles, tablets and smartphones.

They comprise about 40% of the total costs incurred. Although memory chips and processors are cheap, smart phones and tablets have gotten more and more expensive.

ITO replacements have been sought on an urgent basis. The only glitch is that nothing can equal ITO on the level of its transparency, conductivity and easy construction.

In a recent paper, published in Nature Materials, a team of experts led by Roman Engel-Herbert, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, outlined a novel design schemata according to which the problem was tackled from another perspective.

The group used thin films made from certain metals in which the electrons flowed like a liquid. In most of the metals, the electrons flow like a gas. But in correlated metals, they flow like a liquid.

The scientists are trying to make these metals transparent by changing the mass of their electrons.

"We are trying to make metals transparent by changing the effective mass of their electrons," Engel-Herbert said.

"We are doing this by choosing materials in which the electrostatic interaction between negatively charged electrons is very large compared to their kinetic energy. As a result of this strong electron correlation effect, electrons 'feel' each other and behave like a liquid rather than a gas of non-interacting particles. This electron liquid is still highly conductive, but when you shine light on it, it becomes less reflective, thus much more transparent."

A fine balance was found between transparency and conductivity. The mathematical and theoretical conundrum was solved although with a lot of difficulty.

Transparent conductors were thus made from correlated metals. The main mechanism behind the whole finding has become crystal clear. Many more correlated metals will be discovered in the future and they will be put to good use.

The recognition of the revolutionary nature of this discovery dawned upon the researchers when it was made. They realized for the first time that ITO materials could be optimized and even replaced with better substitutes.

At present, Indium costs $750 per kilogram. Vanadium and Strontium cost so much less than Indium that they are ideal materials in this game of electronics.

"Our correlated metals work really well compared to ITO. Now, the question is how to implement these new materials into a large scale manufacturing process. From what we understand right now, there is no reason that strontium vanadate could not replace ITO in the same equipment currently used in industry," says Engel-Herbert.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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