New touchscreen tech promises pressure sensitivity

— 11:25 AM on April 20, 2011

In the coming years, touchscreens are likely to become even more popular. Capacitive models that respond to multitouch input have increasingly replaced resistive touchscreens that used to be the standard for convertible tablets. Now, MIT's Technology Review has news that a company called Peratech is offering pressure-sensitive touchscreen tech.

Dubbed Quantum Tunneling Composite QTC, the technology sandwiches a conductive composite layer between touchscreen layers. When the screen is depressed, "particles in the composite conduct electricity proportional to the pressure applied." According to Peratech CEO Philip Taysom, the composite is thinner than the air gap employed by resistive touchscreens. As a result, less deflection is required than with resistive designs, allowing more rigid and durable outer screen layers to be used.

QTC appears to be compatible with the multitouch input that has made capacitive touchscreens nearly ubiquitous. Taysom also claims power-efficiency benefits over both resisitive and capacitive designs. Versus resisitive alternatives, QTC's composite layer is said to allow more light to pass through than the traditional air gap, requiring less screen brightness. QTC's approach only draws juice when a user is generating input, giving it an edge over capacitive touchscreens that have to keep sensors powered whenever the screen is on.

Bringing pressure sensitivity into the picture might not be a clear win, though. As one German professor quoted by MIT points out, QTC input may require more pressure than we've grown accustomed to using with capacitive devices. We'll know soon enough. Taysom says QTC is set to pop up in a touchscreen product before the end of the year.

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