The Coating Used To Make The iPhone’s Touchscreen Work Is Running Out

There is a transparent material applied to your iOS device’s (or any touch enabled smart device for that matter) touch-sensitive screen called Indium Tin Oxide (ITO) that makes it tick. It looks like sources of this coating are dwindling, however, as Gigaom is reporting that industry experts are racing to produce the next big conductive coating.

ITO at its core is from meta indium, which must be mined. Unfortunately indium is becoming more and more scare and the U.S. government actually estimated the price for indium rose by 25 percent from 2010 t0 2011. Even worse, it is expected that the world could run out in the next decade.

Coating Used To Make The iPhone's Touchscreen Work Is Running Out

In preparation of such a catastrophe, experts have begun trying to find alternatives which they presented at the Semicon West conference in San Francisco this week. Some of the potential alternatives included carbon nanotubes and silver nanowires. Both of these technologies could someday become the dominant touchscreen coating.

According to Gigaom it looks like certain manufacturers could begin using some of these alternatives as soon as next year:

Some manufacturers are already planning on incorporating ITO alternatives into their devices. Foxconn might begin using carbon nanotubes in the non-Apple devices it makes by the end of 2013, and Samsung is working on prototypes that use graphene, according to Martinez.

Although the future of both carbon nanotube and silver nanowire touchscreen coatings looks bright, there is still a lot of research and development to be done. Still, it is good alternatives exist when supplies of ITO are dwindling.

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  • iCrunch

    That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, the world’s resources are running out FAST! We’ve been ignoring this forever and will continue to ignore it until something like this happens on a bigger scale. Let’s say it was an irreplaceable raw material that literally would make touch screens impossible to build without as of 6 months from now. That would certainly be a very direct and palpable event.

    The bigger issues that are coming down the pike are much more significant, such as water, oil, and many other taken-for-granted resources.

    Just something I thought when i saw the headline of this story…

  • HellrideR

    Who thought that the companies will stop producing devices because of the lack of the environment?!

  • Benlego65

    What if we all return old touchscreen phones
    Return cracked screens once we replace them
    And have companies built around retrieving the ITO from these sources?

  • Damian W

    good idea

  • Raymond Lanser

    I’d be curious to know if that’s even possible as many materials are far more costly to retrieve than to mine new materials and many recycled materials lose efficacy when they are recycled and become unusable for their original intent like most plastics and and papers. Recycling offen is not as green as people believe or even less green than original production with the addition of new chemicals to make materials usable again

  • Benlego65

    That isn’t the point, though. The point is that once the ITO or other resources are totally mined out, we can retrieve some of it from devices and reuse it.

  • Raymond Lanser

    I’m just saying it might not be retrievable or usable at all, whether we turn them in or not. Or possibly that it would be so expensive to retrieve that it would make the touchscreen cost prohibitive, especially in specialized materials such as this, to all but the richest. So it is mildly the point. I have no idea though, all I’m saying is I’d be curious know whether it is either or not.