Touch Screen Smudge Hassle Can Be Solved with Candle Soot and Silica Conditioning

December 5, 2011, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

Smudges caused by the touch of fingers on touchscreen have always been a problem, whether the device used is a tablet or phone. To eradicate the smudge issue, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz (Germany) have found a way. And, it’s cool.

Scientists from Germanyhave tested a combination of candle soot and silica to come up with impressive results: glass after specific conditioning was able to repel oil and grease.

The researchers may have found the right tools and procedure to help ease our smudge-filled pain. The test process involves holding a glass over a candle to produce the kind of soot researchers want, which are spherical particles that measure around 30 to 40 nanometers.

The tricky part involved removing the soot’s color and preventing it from being washed off. This is where a silica shell comes in handy and with the right amount of temperature, the soot’s color is gone leaving a pristine, clear screen.

To protect the soot from washing away, they coated it with a silica shell 25 nanometers thick; to get rid of the black color of the soot, they baked the slide at 600ºC, making it transparent.

Later on, they sprayed various oils — peanut oil and solvents — and took micrographs of these liquid droplets bouncing up and down like ping-pong balls. The coating sticks to aluminum, steel, and copper, too.

And because it has both oil and water-repelling qualities, the material is said to be “superamphiphobic”. Neelesh Patankar, a mechanical engineer at Northwestern University, has been quoted as saying that the work is an important step toward finding a commercially viable way to make such materials.

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