Professors Cor Koning (left) and Paul van der Schoot (right), with their new transparent conducting film (Image: Bart van Overbeeke)
With its two chief properties of excellent electrical conductivity and optical transparency, indium tin oxide (ITO) can be found in transparent conductive coatings for displays found in all kinds of products, such as TVs, mobile phones and laptops, and is also used as a transparent electrode in thin-film solar cells. Unfortunately indium is a rare metal and available supplies could run out in as little as ten years. This has prompted researchers to search for alternatives with some success already reported using carbon nanotubes and copper nanowires. The latest ITO replacement material also uses carbon nanotubes, as well as other commonly available materials, and is environmentally friendly.