A new stain-repellent coating could make fingerprint-marked and smudged screens a thing of the past.
Whether it runs Android or iOS, whether it's built by BlackBerry, HTC or Sony and whether it's in the same premium league as the iPhone or an entry-level device like the Nokia Asha, all smartphones have one thing in common: they're fingerprint magnets.
Until now, users only had two choices open to them to combat these smudges: to hope that their phone is popular enough that companies would make screen covers for it, or to constantly clean it.
But very soon there could be a third, much cheaper, much more universal and much more hygienic solution. Chemists at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario in Canada have developed a breakthrough coating that when applied to glass can actively repel water- and oil-based deposits, not just from glass, but from a number of different surfaces.
The ‘smart' coating technology, discovered by Dr. Guojun Liu and Dean Xiong is drawing huge commercial interest and this week received a $200,000 investment from Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) to accelerate its journey to market.
"With literally hundreds of millions of touchscreen devices being used daily, breakthrough technology that would make for a cleaner screen presents a huge business opportunity and would be an incredible showcase of a made-in-Ontario innovation that will create jobs and boost the local economy," said OCE president and CEO Dr. Tom Corr.
As well as ridding smartphones and tablets of fingerprint smudges and other stains, the coating has shown promise in repelling undesired deposits when applied to metals, wood, ceramics, plastics, fabrics, fibres, and paper. And as such it is also being tested for other applications including making walls graffiti-proof, and as an anti-icing and anti-fogging agent.
"This super-amphiphobic technology is exciting because it has the potential to address a wide variety of industrial issues, while also benefiting the environment," says Lucy Su, commercial development manager at PARTEQ Innovations, the technology transfer office at Queen's.
As well as financial investment, the chemists at Queen's also already have a commercial partner in the form of Lorama Inc -- a manufacturer specializing in additives to the paint and coatings industry -- to help them commercialize the technology.