Gesture controller for phones on the way

A German team has developed printable sensors that could allow electronic devices such as phones to be controlled just by pointing a finger.

The thin polymer sensor, like human skin, reacts to the tiniest fluctuations in temperature and differences in pressure and recognizes the finger as it approaches.

Developed by a team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research (ISC) in Würzburg, it consists of pyroelectrical and piezoelectrical polymers which can be produced in high volumes by screen printing.

The sensor is combined with an organic transistor, which strengthens the sensor signal.

“By providing everyday objects with information about their environment – for example whether a person is approaching – by means of pressure and temperature sensors, we can create and market new devices that can be controlled just by pointing a finger,” says project leader Gerhard Domann.

There are still difficulties with production. For the transistors to be printable, the insulation materials have to be very thin. The experts at the ISC have, however, succeeded in producing an insulator which is only 100 nanometers thick.

The first sensors have already been printed onto film. The team’s now working on optimized transistors which can amplify rapid changes in temperature and pressure.