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Novel Nanostructures Could Usher in Touchless Displays

By IEEE Spectrum

October 7, 2015

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The swipe--without actually needing to touch a screen with a finger--will be the next dominant computer interface method, according to researchers in Germany.

A team from Stuttgart's Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research and the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich has developed nanostructures capable of changing their electrical and optical properties when a finger passes by them. The technology could lead to a new generation of touchless displays.

The researchers have essentially developed a humidity sensor that reacts to the minute amount of sweat on a finger and converts it to an electrical signal or a change in color of the nanostructured material. Phosphatoantimonic acid enables the material to absorb water molecules and swell in the process, while its electrical conductivity increases.

"Because these sensors react in a very local manner to any increase in moisture, it is quite conceivable that this sort of material with moisture-dependent properties could also be used for touchless displays and monitors," says Max Planck Institute doctoral student Pirmin Ganter.

The real merit of the technology is its response to near-miss finger swipes in mere milliseconds, compared to seconds for previous touchless interfaces.

The technology also could have fewer issues with mechanical wear over time.

From IEEE Spectrum
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