Could this new shatterproof coating save you from a smashed phone screen?

Mobile phones have changed a lot in the last few years: they’re now faster and thinner (and wider) than ever, with sharp graphics and increased storage capacity… and screens that could shatter at a second’s notice. The fact that late-90s devices have had a recent resurgence has even been credited in part to the fact that smartphones are more fragile than those indestructible bricks we used to carry around. But there might be another option.

Researchers at the University of Akron in Ohio have come up with a new coating that could make the next generation of smartphones more flexible and durable. Currently, most phone screens have a coating of indium tin oxide (ITO), which conducts electricity well, but is brittle and expensive.

The Ohio team’s alternative is made from linked copper nanowires that can be deposited directly onto polymer sheets. They put it through rigorous testing and it retained its conductivity and its shape. Because it’s so flexible, it’s also easier to make in mass quantities than ITO, making it cheaper, too. “The annoying problem of cracked smartphone screens may be solved once and for all,” said Yu Zhu, assistant professor of polymer science at the university, and one of the researchers involved. That’s great news for our pockets, the environment, and our phone-related anxiety levels.

Image via Aaron Stidwell’s flickr.

Diane Shipley