No more cracked smartphone screens, claims maker of transparent electrode

by: Jonathan FeistJune 8, 2014

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 drop test cracked screen aa 8

Polymer scientists at the University of Akron have developed a layer of transparent electrodes that is flexible, durable and, although unconfirmed, more efficient than modern touchscreen technology. If all you want are the CliffsNotes: this technology could eliminate the shattering of screens on your average smartphone.

In their recently published scientific paper on the process and material, Dr. Yu Zhu and his team, mostly students, explain the details of their transparent electrodes. The resulting layer of electrodes offers the same transparency as the indium tin oxide (ITO) layer that is used on most current smartphones. In addition, the new material is flexible and offers greater electrical conductivity.

Dr Zhu Transparent Electrodes Layar

Traditional ITO screen technology is fairly brittle and expensive, both of which are things you learned the hard way if you have ever dropped or sat on your phone. The novel film created of the new transparent electrodes manages to retain its shape and functionality in tests of up to 1000 bends. Not only that, but they say it can be economically fabricated in mass-quantity rolls.

“The annoying problem of cracked smartphone screens may be solved once and for all with this flexible touchscreen,” says Zhu.

We like the sound of all this, but we are reminded of another device that offers flexibility, plus a curved design, the LG G Flex. Do you remember the G Flex drop test from last fall? I don’t want to spoil it, but it didn’t do as well as hoped, requiring a replacement to its cracked display.

With the information at hand, we cannot say how well the new novel film of transparent electrodes will compare to the G Flex, or other flexible displays out there, but it sounds like Zhu and team are eager to get it to market. One thing is for sure, quality competition to any materials manufacturer can only be good for us consumers. If this material can actually make for less expensive and shatterproof screens, count me in.

Have you ever had a cracked display, or would you call this is a solution to an uncommon problem?

  • does it scratch proof? :/

    • jumbo3220

      good point :D

      • That is a good point. Sadly, that information is not yet available to me. Not that we aren’t all used to screen protectors anyway…

        • KapteinStein

          No screen protector here.. Gorilla glass has kept my screen scratch free since the OG galaxy S.

        • Guest

          I’m not used to screen protectors. I’ve had three smartphones over the course of about 3 years. Gorilla Glass by Corning on all of them. Never scratched. But then again, never cracked, either; I’m relatively po’ foke so I make sure not to drop my equipment–can’t just go out and buy a new one. :)

        • Mar Komus

          I’m not used to screen protectors. I’ve relied on Gorilla Glass these past few years on at least 2 different phones (thank you, RepublicWireless). Never had a scratch. Or a crack, for that matter, but I’m probably a little more careful about not dropping my phone.

        • I don’t know anybody that uses a screen protector, they’re not needed nowadays. I haven’t used one since the Verizon Voyager, no scratches.

          • I will admit I am with you guys, have not used a screen protector in years. However, the majority of people around me use them, mostly with their Otter Box cases. These are the same non-techy people that have had cracked screens as well, coincidence? These people need shatterproof screens, or one of the magical Nokia phones from the comments below… Ahh, Chuck Norris!

  • ashish

    hey man what happened to project ara?????

    • Ara has been very quiet, hopefully that means Google will treat us at Google I/O. Just a few short weeks away, hope you are excited.

  • Jusephe

    When we talk about cracking screens what about saph… Whoaaa this article above is the ultimate solution to spider webs ! BRING IT ON !!!!

    • Although sapphire glass is amazingly resilient, it too makes for a rigid, and therefore brittle screen. Still pretty early on this new material, I’m looking forward to more information, comparisons and answers as well.

    • A Skylit [S]unjΔy

      Sapphire cracks very easily but can withstand scratches from most materials. You are misinformed on Sapphire.

  • Arturo Raygoza

    “Uncommon problem”? Now that’s some good comment baiting. I hope its scratch proof and bendable too.

  • peter

    They should aim for the durability of the old Nokia phone. I never ever cracked a screen. Since I went to the newer smartphones. I have cracked the screens on 3 phones. This will be the biggest thing since screens larger than 320 x 240.

    • MasterMuffin

      320 x 240 doesn’t tell the size of the display, it’s a resolution :) The old screens of Nokia phones were plastic, glass cracks much easier

      • Jayfeather787

        Nokia phones are made out of the same material as airplane black boxes. INDESTRUCTIBLE!!!

        • MasterMuffin


        • Corbin Crutch

          No no, stronger. One time a plane crashed and they only found a Nokia someone dropped (which caused the plane crash)..

          • Tor Andre Småsten

            Only Chuck Norris can destroy a Nokia.

          • Corbin Crutch

            I dunno. He punched one once and the dinosaurs were wiped out. I mean, I’m pretty sure that phone is still out there

          • Jayfeather787

            We should make planes out of that black box material. Then planes would not crash and explode. They would just bounce. Or plow into the ground.
            That is a joke of course, a plane made out of that material probably could not fly.

          • Corbin Crutch

            You know it’s because of Nokias we can’t have our phones on on the plane. This event actually occured

          • Jayfeather787

            Plane made out of nokias….

          • Corbin Crutch

            We need this. Seriously NASA, lets get going

  • John Williams

    What we all want is a phone which we don’t have to put in a case, but that doesn’t get scratched up in our pockets, and doesn’t shatter when we fumble it. Anything that furthers that goal is a good thing.

  • Roberto Tomás

    I like these new plastic flexible solutions from Nokia, AUO, and of course the original Samsung (hopefully this will become yet another). Not only does it make the material cheaper, more durable in some ways, but it also brings the image closer to the surface which improves the image a lot.

  • Siralf

    Spigen, problem solved

    • Mar Komus

      Yep! Just watched a video that stress tested it for both scratch and shatter resistance. Hadn’t even heard of it till now (embarrassed to say). That’s good stuff!

      • Guller

        Yeah forsure… i’ve dropped a lighter from 2ft guess what cracked screenprotector. Bad luck?
        Going to use those cheap ones instead :)

  • Phil Blank

    I thought they were all made from sapphire glass.

  • Jayfeather787

    I want this!

  • Alain Lafond

    That would be a reel change… Seem that tech revolition does happen often. But THIS would be the new one…

  • Mar Komus

    What’s being ignored is the traditional tradeoff between CRACKED and SCRATCHED screens. Flexibility guards against cracks; density guards against scratches. Does this new technology offer the same protection against both? If not, then back to the drawing board.

    • toboev

      put a thin glass screen protector on top to prevent/dispose of scratches

      • Guest

        I’m not buying screen protectors.

        • toboev

          I never said you had to. They could do it at the factory. It would just be part of the build. Scratchproof on the outside where it matters, resilient in the mass where it matters.

  • f-apple

    omg did you crack that note-3 for this article… may be after drop test haa

  • gloriousnumber1

    I just want transparent adamantium……

  • Taya D.

    Go University of Akron!

  • Dave Haynie

    I have had zero cracked phone displays, but two cracked tablets. Go figure.

    The problem isn’t so much designing an uncrackable screen… there have been dozens of designs for this. The problem has been that uncrackable/flexible materials are soft — so they scratch. Modern enhanced glass displays are hard enough to not scratch in regular use, but they’re brittle/crackable as well… the two often go together.

    And of course, the other issue is the touchscreen… plastics being soft don’t make the best capacitive touchscreens. So these haven’t been common since the days of resistive touchscreens. Get it unscratchable/uncrackable, with flexible as a bonus, and you’ll have the next screen technology.

  • this is excellent having cracked numerous screens and had to replace them, i welcome someone at last has developed this

  • Bob shields

    Thinner, Lighter, More Likely to Break (so you buy another sooner). Manufactured obsolescence. No money in unbreakable tech.