“Nanobuds” Can Turn Almost Any Surface into a Touch Sensor

Transparent Films with Carbon Nanobuds

Transparent Films with Carbon Nanobuds

To the left is an image of a transparent film that has carbon nanobuds. These nanobuds are molecular tubes of carbon with ball-like appendages that could turn almost any surface, regardless of its shape, into a sensor!

The awesome company that came up with this has also come up with really awesome wearable technologies. Visit Canatu’s site and you’ll be there until your beer is warm without noticing the time you’ve spent there!

So if we “wearable enthusiasts” think about it, this could be the breakthrough we’ve been waiting for! Imagine adding touch controls to car consoles and dashboards and even bent around something as thin as earbuds so they could be handy for adding buttons to flexible devices.

Typical touchscreens are made by overlaying a display screen with a transparent sheet of indium tin oxide. The problem with this is that it’s brittle, so it can’t be used on anything but flat surfaces.

As this technology has developed, they first had a problem with using carbon nanotubes due to poor electrical connections between different nanotubes. Ergo, carbon “nanobuds”: their ball-like appendages are great at emitting electrons and thus improves the electrical connections.

A nanobud

A nanobud

Canatu has ~40 prototypes they’re working on currently. Recently, it built its first full-scale manufacturing equipment, which can produce enough film to cover hundreds of thousands of smartphone touch screens each month. Next year the company plans to install enough machines to supply millions of smartphones.

Canatu’s founders improved the electrical connections between carbon nanotubes by altering their shape and also found a way to make nanobud films cheap by starting with carbon-containing gases, which are then converted directly into nanobuds and deposited to make a transparent film without the need for purification.

The stretch capability is more than 200% without losing performance. Other stretchable touch screens stretch by only a few percent. Why can carbon nanotubes stretch so well? Because the carbon nanobuds are able to slide past one another while maintaining great electrical contact. Amazing!

 

 

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