Indium tin oxide, what makes touchscreens touch-sensitive, is almost gone

iphone-touchscreen-keypadThough we like to believe so, iPhone and other touchscreen devices are not “magic” unfortunately, and there is actually some science behind how they work. The thin, transparent material used in current iPhones is called indium tin oxide, and according to some research, the world is running out of it. Industry experts are saying that the world could be out of indium, the metal that is mined to make ITO, within the next decade. To combat this possible scarcity of touchscreen technology materials, experts and researchers gathered at Semicon West in San Francisco this past week in order to look at new alternatives.

Nanotech Biomachines CEO and CTO Will Martinez showed off his companies idea of the next-generation of touchscreen materials, which is called graphene. Using a layer of carbon atoms only one atom thick, it can be bent almost every which way, meaning that it could be used for flexible displays, and to make current generation displays less likely to stop working when experiencing shock damage. Among other alternatives included one that is already in practice: silver nanowires. This is already being used in some devices, and has been tested with flexible displays as well. Hopefully something effective, but cheap enough to stay competitive, will begin going into mainstream devices.

What do you think? Are you interested in what is next? Let us know in the comments, or tweet me @TiP_Kyle.


Via: GigaOm


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  • jabombardier

    I say stop and go with the alternatives then.

  • Full disclosure: I work at The Indium Corporation (
    The following is offered in a constructive and collegial manner. Additional facts are welcomed.
    Your article is built upon a fundamental error, and the conclusion is misleading (what Forbes magazine calls, “slightly silly”). However, there is some correct information included. Let’s explore.
    Indium is approximately three times more abundant in the earth’s crust than silver, according to the US Geologic Survey. And silver is extracted at 60x the rate of indium, yet no one bemoans its demise. Indium is certainly more complicated to isolate, refine, and bring to market than silver, and is priced accordingly – while normal market conditions operate. Our company’s research and analyses indicate that indium will remain available for consumer product use for well over 100 years. Please study our report and those of the USGS and offer any corrections that you might have.
    It is unquestionable that emerging technologies, like silver nanowires and graphene, are exciting and very promising. It is important, both technologically and ethically, to make comparisons, contrasts, and conclusions in the most informed, logical, and fair manners. You can learn more at And, if you want a totally independent view on this topic, please scan this article from Forbes, that begins with, “I’ve been alerted by Bishop Hill to a slightly silly piece at the BBC that claims that Apple and all other electronics companies are going to have terrible problems when indium runs out in 2017.”.
    I am willing and eager to support your further research into this matter to help you learn the full story.
    Rick Short
    Director: Marketing Communications