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Chemistry is Calling: Chemistry of Smartphones

by LabNotes

It is an item we use daily, hourly, and its usage counts for a percentage of our day. Our cell phones are an essential part of our daily life. They keep us connected, updated and social. But do we really understand why they are called “smartphones”? We refer to them as that but we don’t really think about what is so smart about them.


A smartphone actually consists of various metals and can average up to over 60 different types of metals within one cell phone. Simply chemistry and the periodic table makes it possible for a smartphone to function at the high rate that it does. About 8 rare earth metals can be found in a single cell phone alone and up to 17 in several different types of smartphones. Many of the various colors we see on the display screen which shows in hues of reds, greens and blues are created by rare-earth metals. They are so important in so many technological advances like in lasers, computers, missiles, camera lenses and etc that the U.S. Department of Energy actually named them “technology metals”.


Obviously, the screen is a critical part of the phone, since it allows you to see the phones display. The kind of screen we see on smartphones was created by using a glass that is solid and extremely tough, the world’s first synthetic glass-ceramic, which shares properties with both glass and ceramic. By mixing the elements from ceramics and glass, we get this tougher and stronger material which is transformed into a fine crystalline material. The result is the creation of nearly every smartphone’s screen.


Another super important feature on our cell phones nowadays is the touchscreen. Besides showing our passcode to access its’ features, we can hold our cell and, in many models use a thumbprint to unlock it. Accessing our contacts, social and photos is all handled with a touch of the screen and swipe left or right, thus, smartphone technology is evolving at a crazy speed.

The grid on the screen itself is what helps make it a touchscreen. A tiny bit of stored electrical charge enters your finger from the chemical reaction between your skin and the glass on your phone, transfers to detect it on the screen and then traces the movement of your finger across the phone. As if that is not crazy enough, simply look at the apps that are readily available! You can invest in the stock market, sell your used furniture, or check your blood pressure all with a simple touch. Smartphones are the way of the future and who knows how else they may evolve!?

American Chemistry Council

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) represents the leading companies engaged in the business of chemistry. ACC members apply the science of chemistry to make innovative products and services that make people's lives better, healthier and safer. ACC is committed to improved environmental, health and safety performance through Responsible Care®; common sense advocacy designed to address major public policy issues; and health and environmental research and product testing. The business of chemistry is a $486 billion enterprise and a key element of the nation's economy. It is among the largest exporters in the nation, accounting for ten percent of all U.S. goods exports. Chemistry companies are among the largest investors in research and development. Safety and security have always been primary concerns of ACC members, and they have intensified their efforts, working closely with government agencies to improve security and to defend against any threat to the nation’s critical infrastructure.

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