New thin film insulator could pave way for energy-efficient displays

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London, Nov 10 (ANI): A material, called solution-deposited beta-alumina-traditionally used as an electrical conductor, could be turned into a thin film insulator which could be used in e-book readers and other energy-efficient displays, thanks to a new method developed by Johns Hopkins materials scientists.

The researchers said that by orienting the compound in a different way, it could be turned into a thin film insulator, which instead blocks the flow of electricity, but can induce large electric currents elsewhere.

The material could have important applications in transistor technology and in devices such as electronic books.

"This form of sodium beta-alumina has some very useful characteristics. The material is produced in a liquid state, which means it can easily be deposited onto a surface in a precise pattern for the formation of printed circuits. But when it's heated, it forms a solid, thin transparent film. In addition, it allows us to operate at low voltages, meaning it requires less power to induce useful current. That means its applications could operate with smaller batteries or be connected to a battery instead of a wall outlet," Nature quoted Howard E. Katz, a professor of materials science and engineering who supervised the research team, as saying.

The transparency and thinness of the material (the hardened film is only on the order of 100 atoms thick) make it ideal for use in the increasingly popular e-book readers, which rely on see-through screens and portable power sources, said Katz.

He added that possible transportation applications include instrument readouts that can be displayed in the windshield of an aircraft or a ground vehicle.

Katz said that the emergence of sodium beta-alumina as an insulator was a surprising development.

The Johns Hopkins researchers developed a method of processing sodium beta-alumina in a way that makes use of its insulation behaviour occurring in the form of a thin film.

The discovery is described in the November issue of the journal Nature Materials. (ANI)

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