Eight New Innovations That Will Blow Your Mind

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Transparent circuitry to power smart windows

Scientists at King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabai, have found a way to make transparent transistors and other essential components of electronic circuitry, an advance that may lead to displays on car windscreens, transparent television sets and smartwindows.

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Pic 6_A transparent transistor for displays based on indium zinc oxide can dramatically increase performance (Image courtesy: kaust.edu.sa)

Indium tin oxide (ITO) is the current material of choice for electronics because it combines optical transparency with electrical conductivity. Its use ranges from touch-sensitive smartphone screens to light-harvesting solar panels. Indium is in short supply, and as demand increases for ITO-containing devices, so does the price of indium.

A low-cost ITO alternative is a transparent material known as aluminium-doped zinc oxide (AZO).

Researchers have used a high-precision technology called atomic layer deposition, a process in which the circuitry is built with a single layer of atoms at a time. Volatile vapours of aluminium and zinc in the form of trimethyl-aluminium and diethyl-zinc are alternately introduced onto the transparent substrate, where these adhere to the surface in
a single layer before reacting in situ to form AZO.

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