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General Motors patents self-cleaning touchscreen technology

The addition of UV pixels to LED displays could yield attractive results

Touchscreens are everywhere these days– in our pockets, in our homes and cars, restaurants, museums, airports–just about anywhere we go. Unfortunately the omnipresence of touchscreens means the omnipresence of smudges, fingerprints, and unsightly displays. General Motors is well aware of this, and has secured a patent for a technology that could make self-cleaning touchscreens the next big thing in interactive displays.

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The patented technology would involve the addition of a fourth pixel to the LED pixel arrays that make up a touchscreen display. In addition to red, green, and blue pixels, the new pixel would only emit ultraviolet light. The surface of the display, much like self-cleaning solar panels, would be coated with a thin layer of a metal-oxide-based photocatalyst. This type of coating is water resistant, but when exposed to UV light, becomes hydrophilic, sucking moisture from the air around it. Once moistened by the surrounding air, the surface oxidizes the accumulated moisture, essentially killing any organic material present. This includes oil left by fingers, leaving the surface both clean and sterilized.

General Motors’ patent allows these UV pixels to be activated at any time, which could potentially lead to displays that could be set on a self-cleaning timer, or activated manually to start a cleaning cycle at will. Though it is only a patent at this time, the patent covers displays in vehicle interiors as well as “computers, mobile devices, televisions, kiosks, teller machines, and household appliances”, meaning self-cleaning laptops and interactive digital signage could be on the horizon.

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