We have become so comfortable with operating a touchscreen that we find it other types of tech, like cars. More commercial vehicles have a touchscreen now, and maybe the future is to have the entire dashboard as a single touchscreen. The problem is touchscreens tend to leave fingerprints on the screen, especially if the user’s skin has moisture on it.
General Motors (GM) has taken this seriously and got awarded a patent for a new screen design that enables the touchscreen to erase fingerprints automatically. After Nissan’s self-cleaning car prototype, now we are going to have a self-cleaning display by GM.
Before you start thinking of car wipers, that’s not what the self-cleaning display is all about. GM’s patent introduces us to purple pixels that would emit violet light from the LED. It is quite similar to ultraviolet light and remains invisible to human eyes which will not affect your visual experience while driving.
The self-cleaning display uses a photocatalytic coating and violet light to remove fingerprints and other unsightly blemishes. https://t.co/rKafIOwtsM
— Car and Driver (@CARandDRIVER) March 25, 2023
The United States Patent and Trademark Office awarded GM the patent on February 14, 2023. According to the patent, the system is designed with a photocatalytic coating to absorb specific wavelengths of light to create a chemical reaction. The ultraviolet illumination from LEDs activates the coating when comes in contact with sunlight. The material is also water-repellant and becomes hydrophilic and absorbs moisture from the air. The catalyst kills and removes organic materials from the surface including, dirt, debris as well as fingerprints. Some solar panels are using a similar technique.
The expectation of the patent
Looking closely, the patent seems to involve a metal-oxide-based photocatalyst and is triggered by sunlight. While it might react to natural sunlight’s UV, the window tints in the car will keep the interior dark and cool. So, the reaction will be only on the purple pixels. Even when the car is idle at the night or you try to clean the screen during the day, the pixels will eventually activate the photocatalyst. This will clean the dust and oil residues or possible grease from food.
The metal oxide material should have a band gap in the UV or near-UV portion of the light spectrum which is the key. After that, it is coated with other materials to make a transition in the metal from the D-block or with a non-metal, for instance, nitrogen or fluorine. To make it more effective for a car, the tampering shifts the band gap to activate the photocatalyst in both direct sunlight and LED-sourced UV light.
— IMechE Iberia Group (@IMecheIberia) February 21, 2023
GM took the first step to developing a photocatalytic touch-screen coating. Many brands have used this trick in their display to keep them safe from germs but incorporating this with violet LED has made it revolutionary and useful for vehicles. The product has yet to be developed; the patent has been awarded and there’s no official announcement yet from the company. However, it’s interesting how the idea will be implemented and its possibility to move from cars to every other tech involving a screen.