A new type of metal has been developed by researchers in the US that’s both highly transparent and electrically conductive, and at less than 5 percent the cost of current displays, it could see far cheaper smartphones in our pockets and enormous 'smart windows' in our homes.
The problem with current displays is that they’re based on indium tin oxide (ITO), with more than 90 percent of the display market being wholly dependent on this material. And it’s by no means cheap, with the cost of ITO has jumped all over the place over the past decade.
ITO contributes up 40 percent of the cost of a smartphone or tablet, and while the cost of memory chips and processors continues to drop, the materials we’re using to build our screens and displays is holding us back from developing bigger and better technologies.
So, researchers at Pennsylvania State University have been working on something to replace indium tin oxide, and they say they’ve managed to match its optical transparency, electrical conductivity, and efficiency of manufacture in a strange new class of material called correlated metal.
10-namometre-thick films of correlated metal have been developed, which are characterized by their unique molecular structure. While in most metals, such as copper, gold, silver, and aluminum, the electrons flow like a gas cloud, in correlated metals, they move more like a liquid, allowing the material to change phases depending on how it's used.
The researchers say that while ITO can cost up to US$750 per kilogram, they can produce correlated metals far more cheaply. The team has since applied for a patent on their technology, and says the material could also be used to develop cheaper solar cells in the future.