Washington: Present day computer touchscreens, which are nearly ubiquitous on laptops, tablets and smartphones, are often made of glass or plastic that is heavy, inflexible and even breakable.
But now, researchers have devised a way to make computer touchscreens out of paper, which is lightweight, flexible and cheap.
Use of paper touchscreens could range from electronic devices to nutritional labels and price tags.
The paper, created by a team of researchers led by Aaron Mazzeo, a mechanical engineer at Harvard, starts with a process already used to make shiny labels for beer bottles: Paper is coated with a very thin layer of aluminum, which is then covered in a thin film of transparent polymer, Discovery News reported.
“We are interested in designing systems that use low cost materials to provide high-tech functionality,” said Mazzeo.
Aluminum conducts electrical charges. Putting two sheets of the metallic paper next to each makes a capacitor, a device that stores an electrical charge.
With the help of an external circuit, the metallized material becomes a surface that can detect charges. When a person touches the paper layer, the amount of charge in the paper goes up - just like it does on a glass or plastic touchscreen.
To build a keyboard, the researchers used a laser to etch cuts into the metal-coated paper.
The paper is fairly cheap, approximately 25 cents per square meter, which implies that a nine-digit keypad the size of those on a calculator could be made for a few cents.
The work has been published in the journal Advanced Materials.