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Innovative materials of the future promise shatterproof phones with a unique design

13 June 2014 / 16:06:30  GRReporter
3048 reads

Ivan Petkov

The advantage of mobile phones is their portability, but it significantly increases the risk of mechanical damage. Smartphones are becoming larger, which increases the chance of breaking the screen when acidentally dropping them. If this has not yet happened to you, it is very likely that, at some point in the future, you will not escape such an experience. This is because the touchscreens of phones are made of fragile materials. Regardless of the fact that the prices of these devices are continuously falling and they are increasingly penetrating our lives, breaking the screen of your mobile phone can be a quite unpleasant experience, not only in financial terms. It will hinder your work and the ability to communicate with your friends.

This is about to change due to a discovery a team of scientists from the University of Akron has made under the guidance of  Zhou Yu. The scientists have managed to create a transparent screen with exceptional strength and durability after tests in which it has been bent 1,000 times. "The annoying problem of cracked smartphone screens may be solved once and for all with this flexible touchscreen," says project manager Yu Zhu.

This development can bring us closer to the shatterproof mobile screens if the team manages to start its mass production. The latter will be supported by the fact that this technology is very inexpensive as, according to the developers, its production is cheaper than the production of the current sensor technologies. It is not clear when it will reach the market, but the team hopes that this will happen as soon as possible.

Such a cheap technology would lead to a significant improvement not only in the strength of phones, but also in their design. We have witnessed that the competition in the thickness of the portable devices has recently begun to shift towards offering smartphones with as thin as possible frames around the screens. Another point that should be considered is the possibility of making a transparent screen, something that has long been present in science fiction films. This again shows that the future is often much closer than we suspect.

Similar is the direction of an Apple patent, which the company filed back in 2008. The patent describes the coupling of sapphire glass with a metal alloy and LiquidMetal is actually the brand name of a type of an amorphous metal alloy produced by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and distributed by Liquid Technologies. After its appearance in 2003 LiquidMetal became a popular material used in the production of golf clubs, watches and high-class mobile phones. Among the more famous examples are the super luxury Vertu phone and the needle for removing the SIM-card of iPhone 3GS. Apple used this as a test of the durability of the metal alloy.

The already patented Apple technology allows the pairing of sapphire glass and in practice, this means that the display will not just be glued to the metal panel but become a part of it. Therefore, the device will have a very smooth design.

On the other hand, this means that the future models of the iPhone, which uses this technology, will be repaired only in an Apple repair shop. Sapphire can be extremely durable, but it is not indestructible and changing a cracked/broken screen of a device based on that patent will be impossible after the expiry of the official warranty. In this case, the combination of the new screen that the team of scientists from the University of Akron has recently discovered and a "liquid metal" body would be interesting.

The beginning of this year showed that the abilities in terms of smartphone hardware are equal and the top offers of different companies differ primarily in terms of their design. In an increasingly saturated smartphone market, the design and the materials they are made of will be of paramount importance when choosing a new phone.

Another attractive and distinctive feature is the software with which a smartphone operates. The large variety of extra features and useful functionality of the mobile operating system of the mobile device will increase its attractiveness and consumer willingness to purchase it.

A developer conference was held at the beginning of the month, at which Apple traditionally presented the software innovations for their products. In the opinion of many experts, this was the most boring conference of the past 20 years. Eddy Cue, Apple manager for Internet software and services, had raised the expectations just a few days before the WWDC 2014. "Later this year we will have the best product range that I've seen in my twenty-five years at Apple ", said Cue. Shortly thereafter, the media pointed out that Apple CEO Tim Cook had promised early last year that the company would present great products throughout 2014.

However, those who hoped to have a little insight into this "great product range" or at least to see some visions during the world conference for Apple developers in San Francisco were bitterly disappointed.

To the lack of some information about new hardware products, as there is no new iPhone, no trace of iWatch, nor a TV from Apple, we could add the feeling of software functionality copied from the competition, especially on the part of a company that has set high standards in the mobile sector, engaging legions of lawyers to prove that its competitors steal its ideas.

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