Quantum tunneling: coming to a phone near you

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Samsung has licensed a new pressure-sensitive touch-screen technology that relies on quantum physics.

The company's Electro-Mechanics (EM) division, which supplies mobile phone components, has licensed the Quantum Tunnelling Composite (QTC) technology from the UK's Peratech.

Unlike standard dome switches, QTC switches are sensitive so the more current flows when greater pressure is applied. This means, for example, that the speed of scrolling through a list or moving in a game could increase as more pressure is applied.

"The pressure sensitivity of the QTC switches changes the game when it comes to human machine interface design enabling truly 3D user interfaces to be created in small, low power devices," said
Dr Ho-Chul Joung, Principal Manager at Samsung EM.

"This three-dimensionality cannot be matched with existing resistive and capacitive technologies and means that the next generation of mobile phones will have many new and exciting features because of it."

The pressure-sensitive material consists of nanoparticles suspended in a polymer. When pressure forces them together, there's an increased chance of a quantum physics reaction known as tunneling, whereby electrons behave like waves and penetrate a normally non-conductive barrier. This increases the electric current that flows through.

Products based on the technology could start appearing soon. "Samsung EM supplies components to most of the leading phone manufacturers so our technology will soon be used across a wide range of next generation phone models," said Philip Taysom, joint CEO of Peratech.
"In fact, a Navikey using QTC from Samsung EM is already being used into a Tier 1 mobile phone."

The technology has also been licensed to Japanese touch-screen maker Nissha.

See also:
Amazon buys touch-screen manufacturer to beef up Kindle