UF research may lead to safer flexible touchscreens


These are silver nanowires. There’s
billions of nano wires per milliliter in here. Silver nanowires are conducting
materials that can be used in flexible electronics and there’s not a whole lot
of flexible electronics or flexible touchscreens out on the market today, but
that is where the future of touchscreen technology is going. Our goal with
researching silver nanowires is to try to find the form of silver nano wires
which is less likely to cause harm to people and the environment. That being
toxicity to aquatic organisms and aquatic species. So this work was an
international collaborative effort involving labs both in the United States
and in Europe. To test the toxicity of silver nanowires on aquatic organisms, we
use a rainbow trout as our model organism because rainbow trout are a
very sensitive indicator species. We exposed the rainbow trout gill and gut
cells to the silver nanowires to investigate those two different
potential pathways to exposure. Nanowires are taken up by cells. If you
imagine slurping up a piece of spaghetti, that is essentially how cells do it.
Previous work had largely focused on the length of silver nanowires and our work
is focused on the diameter or the thickness of the silver nanowires. We
found something very interesting. We found that the thicker nanowires are
actually more toxic to the rainbow trout cells than the thinner nanowires. And we
found that the cells can actually bend up the thinner nanowires to be a more
spherical structure that can be easier for the cell to process, compared to the
thicker nanowires which remain stiff and rigid. Maintaining that rigid
structure actually makes them more toxic than the thinner nanowires. I think all
too often we generate new technologies and only
consider the effects afterwards when a considerable
amount of resources has already been put into the development of that technology.
The big picture of this work is that these results can be used by
manufacturers to inform them how to make silver nanowires and how to make you
know these flexible touchscreen devices in ways that are safer to people and the
environment.

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