If “wearable” is the big buzzword of CES this year then “flexible” can’t be far behind. Cambrios Technologies isn’t a company you might associate with it – LG’s G Flex and Samsung’s transforming curved TV are certainly more eye-catching – but the company’s ClearOhm silver nanowires are likely to enable the next generation of flexibly flexible touch panels, including turning your whole car dashboard into one vast finger-responsive surface.
That’s because they’re better at electrical conduction than indium tin oxide, the current touch-sensor material of choice, as well as being more readily applied to flexible plastic substrates, Cambrios says. Meanwhile, they’re also highly transparent – again, more so than the existing materials – opening the door to overlaying practically invisible touch sensors onto any surface without obscuring what’s underneath.
It’s not just touch panels, either. The highly-conductive silver nanowires also have applications in extra-efficient solar panels, Cambrios’ Sri Peruvemba told us, and lighting panels, which also benefit from the fact that the nanowires are practically indestructible.
Cambrios is working with one of the biggest touch panel manufacturers – serving some tier one clients around which there have been no shortage of flexible or curved display rumors lately – and already has its nanowires in the touchscreens of shipping products. They range from smartphones up to 27-inch Lenovo touchscreen all-in-ones, though what has us really interested is even bigger and smaller applications.
Peruvemba couldn’t tell us which companies have products using the ClearOhm nanowires in the pipeline, but said that by IFA 2014 – in early September – there should be some big name announcements out. Our fertile imaginations are already thinking of tablets and laptops that you can stroke all over to control, but we’ll have to wait until later in the year to find out for sure.That could include a curved smartwatch – with a touch sensitive surface that tracks all the way around the wrist, and which won’t break no matter how many times you snap it on and off – or even a fully touch-enabled dashboard, breaking infotainment control out from the usual 6- to 8-inch embedded touchscreen.