Touchscreens are a friend and a foe. On the one hand, touchscreens have completely revolutionized gadget design. On the other, they can get be a germaphobe's worst nightmare. Using a chemical found in paint, scientists say touchscreen devices coated with it can rid themselves of grime.
The substance is called titanium dioxide, a chemical that when exposed to sunlight creates a "chain reaction that creates free radicals, which penetrate the cell walls of bacteria and fungi and damager their DNA."
Michael Vergöhl, a researcher at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB in Germany on titanium dioxide's potential application on gadgets:
"If you apply a thin coating of titanium dioxide to a glass surface such as a smartphone screen, the skin oils and fingerprints gradually disappear from the display by themselves."
The only downside is that you have to let your touchscreen bake in the sun for about an hour for the self-cleaning magic to work.
Previous tests at the Fraunhofer lab showed success from a plastic lawn chair coated with titanium dioxide and blasted with bacteria, moss, algae and fungi, then left out in the sun for two years. The titanium dioxide chair "appeared clean and white" even after years of being subjected to bacteria.
Fraunhofer researchers hope the next breakthrough will involve self-cleaning chemicals to be activated by indoor light. With more time, we'll likely never have to carry around a cleaning cloth ever again for our iPhone 10s and Galaxy Infinities.