Saving Screens with Shear-Thinning Fluids

A new study suggests we could better protect the glass in our devices with a layer of non-Newtonian fluid to help dissipate the energy of impacts.

These days glass screens travel with us everywhere, and they can take some big hits on the way. Manufacturers have made tougher glass, but they continue to look for ways to protect our screens. Recently, a study suggested that non-Newtonian fluids are well-suited to the task.

The team explored the physics of sandwiching a layer of fluid between a glass top layer and an LCD screen bottom layer, mimicking structures found in electronic devices. Through simulation, they searched for the fluid characteristics that would best minimize the forces felt by the solid layers during an impact. They found that shear-thinning fluids — fluids that, like paint or shampoo, get runnier when they’re deformed — provided the best protection. Having the impact energy go into reducing the local viscosity of the fluid stretches the length of time the impact affects the glass, which lowers the bending forces on it and helps avoid breakage. (Image credit: G. Rosenke; research credit: J. Richards et al.; via Physics World)

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