A team of researchers, led by the University of Minnesota, have discovered a new nano-scale thin film material with the highest-ever conductivity in its class.

The race is always on for companies like Samsung and Apple to develop a phone with the largest screen size, is lightweight, and slim. Each year they go to battle with their flagship phones. Over at The Verge they have done a lengthy comparison of the Samsung S8 to the iPhone 7. (Spoiler Alert: Right now Samsung wins in screen size while Apple has an edge on thinness.) However, researchers at the University of Minnesota have developed a new transparent film that could change the landscape for electronics.

Researchers say that the new transparent film made from barium stannate is unique because of its conductivity and level of transparency. The material has a wide bandgap which means light can easily pass through. Usually, a wide bandgap material has either low conductivity or poor transparency.

Bharat Jalana University of Minnesota chemical engineering and materials science professor and the lead researcher on the study said “The high conductivity and wide bandgap make this an ideal material for making optically transparent conducting films which could be used in a wide variety of electronic devices, including high-power electronics, electronic displays, touch screens and even solar cells in which light needs to pass through the device.”

Today, indium is the industry solution for transparent conductors in electronics. Researchers have been working to develop a replacement due to the price and scarcity of this rare earth material.

The researchers used a novel synthesis method in developing the final product. They grew a film made of BaSnO3 (barium, tin and oxygen) but replaced the chemical tin with a precursor of tin. Which the paper said, “has unique, radical properties that enhanced the chemical reactivity and greatly improved the metal oxide formation process.”

Also, due to the low cost and high abundance of tin and barium versus indium makes this a viable replacement.

“We were quite surprised at how well this unconventional approach worked the very first time we used the tin chemical precursor,” said University of Minnesota chemical engineering and materials science graduate student Abhinav Prakash, the first author of the paper. “It was a big risk, but it was quite a big breakthrough for us.”

According to the paper, not only could this lead to smaller, faster, and more powerful electronics, but also more efficient solar cells.

John Niedbala
John Niedbala is the Editor-in-Chief and writer for Fanvive. When he's not working, you'll likely find him on the tennis court or trying a new local restaurant.