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Microsoft patents self-cleaning UV light touchscreen

Smartphones, tablets and even some laptops have meant that touchscreens are now ubiquitous in our everyday lives.

However, all this touching can increase the spread of bacteria, so Microsoft has patented a self-cleaning display to help ease any medical fears.

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In its patent application, Microsoft highlights that touch-based screens are often covered with potential disease causing agents, but that any solution to this problem should not limit the device’s utility.

“Limiting exposure by enforcing single user devices does not eliminate the pathogenic exposure and severely limits the utility of such devices,” the patent reads. “Single user devices are also resource wasteful and may not suit all functional requirements. In some cases such as a public terminal, single user restriction may not be a solution. Solutions such as removable screen covers are inconvenient and costly if frequently replaced.”

Microsoft plans to use UV light to disinfect touchscreens automatically, utilising total internal reflection to ensure that the user is not exposed to any UV light.

“A UV and visible light transparent film material is secured onto or within a touch-based screen to automatically disinfect the external surface. UV light is emitted from a UV light source into an edge of the transparent film material in order to transfer the UV light through the transparent film material while remaining in the transparent film material through total internal reflection effect. Some UV light exits the transparent film material at points of contact to disinfect fingertips and immediate surrounding areas through the frustrated total internal reflection effect.”

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It remains to be seen whether this new approach to technology hygiene will be implemented in any of Microsoft’s upcoming Lumia or Surface releases, particularly as technology patents frequently remain unused. That being said, Microsoft has previously applied for a UV cleaning patent, but the new application is a more refined and flexible approach.