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A Smudge-Free Smart Phone Screen?

New test could lead to clearer glass for hand-held technologies

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 19 (HealthDay News) -- The touch screens of BlackBerrys and iPhones tend to smudge easily, but scientists say they have a test to determine the chemical composition and the effectiveness of protective coatings, a finding that may lead to the development of better anti-smudge, anti-reflective coverings.

The key to anti-smudge coatings is perfluoro alkyl ether, a Teflon derivative with added ether groups to enhance its repellent effects. The key to anti-reflective coatings is alternating layers of silica and aluminum to bend and diffuse light.

The findings were to be presented Aug. 19 at the American Chemical Society's annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

"Surfaces are particularly important in consumer products," researcher Steven R. Carlo said in a news release from the chemical society. "This work investigates how products can be modified to reduce smudging and reflections. These modifications can offer improved resistance to fingerprints, anti-reflection properties or enhanced physical resistance."

In the consumer electronics industry, the appearance of smart phones and other devices matters as much as their functionality, the researchers said. To that end, smudge-, scratch- and reflective-resistant coatings have become standard on touch-screen cell phones and similar hand-held tools.

While effective, the structure and chemical makeup of the coatings are poorly understood. The current research provides insight into what makes the coatings work.

Unable to use standard chemical techniques to test the super-thin coatings, researchers used depth profile X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) to study the chemistry of the coatings.

The XPS enabled researchers to see the multi-layer structure and the chemicals in each layer. They found that the more layers in a coating, the greater the anti-reflective properties. More silica and aluminum layers also decreased glare.

More information

HowStuffWorks has more on how touch-screen monitors work.

-- Jennifer Thomas

SOURCE: American Chemical Society, news release, Aug. 19, 2009

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