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GM Patents a Self-Cleaning Touchscreen to Automatically Remove Fingerprint Smudges

A chemical reaction from the touchscreen's UV light can break down the oils in fingerprints.

GM is about to eliminate one of the most troubling issues facing the automotive industry today: fingerprints. Touchscreens look horrific once they’re polka-dotted with greasy smudges and because modern car interiors feature such big touchscreens, it’s worse than ever. Keeping those screens clean is exhausting, and I’m always losing microfiber cloths, but GM has patented a way for the car to clean them for you.

This new GM patent filing unearthed by Auto Evolution features a new self-cleaning touchscreen that can remove greasy fingerprints on its own, whenever the driver chooses. How it works is ingenious.

The idea is to fit the touchscreen with additional violet micro-LEDs that create an invisible ultraviolet wavelength. The screen is then coated with a transparent photocatalyst layer that, when combined with the UV light from the LEDs and the moisture in the air, creates a chemical reaction that breaks down the oils from the fingerprints. Once the oils and grease are broken down, they evaporate, making the fingerprints disappear. The patent doesn’t say exactly what sort of catalyst is in the transparent screen layer but it does say that it’s some sort of metal oxide.

While this is new to automotive touchscreens, this same chemical reaction is used to clean and protect solar panels, which are fitted with similar photocatalyst layers. On solar panels, that photocatalyst combines with sunlight to create the same effect, which is able to kill bacteria, fungi, and break down oils.

However, a car interior isn’t always exposed to sunlight, which is why GM used violet micro-LEDs to recreate the effects of UV light. So the car can actually self-clean the touchscreen at night, ridding itself of fingerprints and removing bacteria while you’re sleeping, so you have a nice clean touchscreen when you get into your car the next morning. Or, as the driver, you could choose to use the system at any time.

This tech is still in its patent phase, so don’t expect it to be on any GM product anytime soon. However, it seems like a no-brainer. A touchscreen that cleans fingerprints by itself, seemingly by magic, without me having to wipe it with a microfiber cloth 600 times a day? Shut up, GM, and take my money.

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