Researchers create disposable touch-pads

The world of the future is often characterised by everything being virtual or touch-screen. Now, we're at a point where this could become normal enough in the future, thanks to the work of researchers in France and the United States.

After some experimentation, a possible "disposable electronic touch pad" has been created, as RSC reports. The concept sounds futuristic but the actual production seems surprisingly plausible. The pads are made of metallized paper: paper coated in a layer of aluminium. The aluminium layer is only around 10nm thick, but is then covered with another very thin film of transparent polymer.

The paper is already produced commercially, and is used for shiny labels and glossy book covers. For a square metre you can expect to pay out a wallet-crippling $0.25, so it's hardly expensive either. Already, the work has allowed the researchers to develop an alarmed box with a keypad that requires a code, so the real-world ramifications could be experienced very rapidly.

One key to the system is that the paper already has the essential elements of a capacitor, with the surfaces of thin metal film being able to collide when something is touched. To try and convey the rapid pace this project is moving at, the team have two different capacitor configurations. One requires two sheets of paper stuck together, while the other uses a single sheet.

The human body itself makes a surprisingly effective capacitor, so when the finger touches a key there is an increase of capacitance at the key. The external electronics detect this. While sounding well-developed already, more work is being performed to try and usher in a new age of touch-screen everything.

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5 Comments

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just what we need, more disposable stuff... how about just making stuff more durable? and if its for sanitary reasons, make it so it can be covered with something that can respond the same way that can be disposed of

neufuse said,
just what we need, more disposable stuff... how about just making stuff more durable? and if its for sanitary reasons, make it so it can be covered with something that can respond the same way that can be disposed of

I absolutely agree with you there but here is an example of where your idea falls down,
If it lasts a long time why would people need to buy more? its like inventing the everlasting battery.

Its all about generating more money, sadly

neufuse said,
just what we need, more disposable stuff... how about just making stuff more durable? and if its for sanitary reasons, make it so it can be covered with something that can respond the same way that can be disposed of

Technology is moving at such a rate the even high end technology such as mobile phones are pretty much throw away devices and certainly not something people consider a item that they want be durable for the next 3+ years as they'll be outdated and 'uesless' to that person to play the latest version of angry birds.

As much as I hate it, everything is a throwaway item these days. Fewer people tend to hold on to things that work and replace them with something new, just because its supposed to be better. Sometimes it is, but a lot of the time, they're spending a lot of money for something they don't really need.

Also, touchpads. hmm a peice of paper. a pencil and a bit of votage and you've got a touchpad ... a true disposable touchpad.
http://hackaday.com/2010/11/16/paper-touchpad/

Toysoldier said,

I absolutely agree with you there but here is an example of where your idea falls down,
If it lasts a long time why would people need to buy more? its like inventing the everlasting battery.

Its all about generating more money, sadly

What are you talking about? We had the non disposable ones first. We will continue to have them. These are for purposes where a disposable version is more appropriate. This just gives you more choice.

His point is that much of the hardware today is designed to only last a certain amount of years to generate more revenue for the company.

Take, for example, washing machines, electronic hardware, tools. A lot of them "fail on purpose".