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Ever since cathode ray tubes gave way to flatscreens, much has been made of this much slimmer, distortion-free and completely flat technology. However, there are now demands for touchscreens and displays to be even more flexible in terms of use and installation, and that means bending and curving them - an area where the technology still struggles. Indeed, users can only use ever-popular tapping and swiping gestures on curved devices if flexible equivalents can be found to replace the brittle materials such as indium tin oxide and silicon that have been used to date. The Leibniz Institute for New Materials (INM) is at the forefront in the quest to find a solution. The institute has chosen HANNOVER MESSE 2018 to showcase materials and processes for electrospinning, which can be used to add invisible touch control areas to surfaces.

"What's innovative about our technology is the starting materials we use. We process polymers and composites but also sols, which are then calcined. Depending on the starting material, it's possible to produce both intrinsically conductive fibers and those that become electrically conductive in a further step via silvering," says Peter William de Oliveira, Head of the InnovationCenter at the INM. Unlike previous patterning processes such as stamping and printing, electrospinning produces unstructured conductive fleece, whose density is high enough to enable electrical conductivity across the whole of the substrate. At the same time, the number of fiber intersection points is so low that light scattering is reduced to less than two percent. With fibers that are 100 times thinner than a human hair, the fleece is invisible to the human eye and appears transparent. The fleece's net-like, asymmetrical structure also eliminates typical diffraction phenomena, such as distracting rainbow effects.