All you chemists and metalurgists lend me your minds:

I’m not even certain if this exists, but I certainly hope that it does:

I’m looking for a material that conforms to the following guidelines (it must for the purpose I intend to use it for)

It must be:

  1. Remain solid from -50 F to +300 F

  2. Conduct electricity or be capabler of conveyance of static as a pulse.

  3. Be at least as sturdy as plexiglass, with as much flex but it may be as inflexible as silicate glass. It just can’t be floppy or rubbery.

  4. It may not be cheap but it must have the potential to become cheap (not more than the cost of refined aluminium or tempered glass) if it were exploited and mass produced.

  5. This is the tough one, it must be transparent. Not opaque at all. You have to see through it as well as glass.

Does this material exist or can it exist?

Bonus points of you can guess what I’m wanting to do with it. No money in it for me (well probably not) but this is in the intent of the betterment of mankind in general.

The combination of requirements 2 and 5 is most likely going to kill your idea, there. As a general rule, conductors are reflective of light, and totally opaque. The very fact that the charges can move around prevents electromagnetic fields (i. e., light) from penetrating. I’m not sure yet just what you intend it for, so I don’t know if this is OK, but would it work to have a mesh of fine wire embedded in a transparent substance?

President of Plexicorp: “Transparent aluminum??!”
Scotty:" THat’s the ticket, laddie!"
PoP:“It will take years to analyze this matrix.”
McCoy:“But you would be rich beyond the dreams of avarice.”
Sounds pretty fishy to me. Transparent AND conductive is hard enough, even for stuff that’s pretty brittle.

I can offer you a partial solution – the alkali metals are actually transparent in the UV. They are metals, of course. They’re also soft as butter, incredibly reactive, opaque across the visible wavelengths, and melt at pretty low temperatures. But you can’t have everything.

Partially aluminized/silvered plexiglass ?
You’ll have a tradeoff between conductivity and transparency, but perhaps there’s a happy medium that will work.

Here’s a transparent, conductive coating used to coat glass to make it conductive. Does that help?


Indium tin oxide is conductive and transparent, but I’m not sure about it’s bulk-solid properties (it’s usually used as a coating over some transparent, non-conductive material).


The material you desire does not exist (yet). If conductivity is required for information transfer a D/A interface for embedded lightpipe fibers would work. If it is necessary for power transfer you are SOL.

The “perfectly transparent” requirement you specify doesn’t (to me) make sense in the context of a hard material requirement. What is it going to matter if there are thin wires embedded except on an esthetic basis? Ford has been doing this for years with thin, virtually transparent heating wires embedded in the front windshield for de-frosting.

Just how transparent does it need to be? At first I was thinking about those mylar balloons that can hold their helium for a few weeks. Usually one side is reflective and mirrored, and you can see through from the other side, sort of like a darkly tinted window. I’m pretty sure the mirrored part is conductive.

What shape does it meed to be? I’ve got your answer. If it can be used in sheets or panels, it’s a piece of cake - almost.

I’m thinking sandwich. Find your plastic that’s transparent and fits your requirements for temperature range. Polycarbonate? Acrylic? I don’t really know if they’ll make it to 300°F. Second thought, just use glass.

Then sandwich in between the plastic or glass layers a liquid layer doped with enough ions or electrolyte to carry current, and then tweak the solution to obtain the working temperature range. This might be the toughest part.

Some glycol / alcohol mixture might get you down to -50°F without freezing, but I’m unsure if it would be polar enough to keep enough ions in solution reach the 300°F mark. Maybe some strong acids would work better.

PCBs used to be a commom additave in transformer oil to raise its heat capacity, but they don’t dissolve in water very well at all. You’d have to use a non-polar solvent for those. Pentane? Hexane? They’d hold PCBs in solution, but we’re back at the freezing point/boiilng point problem again.

Maybe if you could get the freezing point spec worked out chemically, you could conquer the boiling point spec using physical/mechanical means, i.e., pressure.

The radiator in your car keeps the coolant under pressure so that it can take a much higher temperature without boiling. So, make the glass or plastic sheets structurally strong enough to withstand some pressure, maybe just by brute force with the solid layers ~100 times thicker than the liquid layer.

Just how much current do you want to carry? Whole, whopping amps to produce some heat? Or would pico amps work, like for carrying a signal that can be detected? If miniscule amps will do the trick, I’d just go for plain old wires. Pentium III class CPUs use “wires” inside that are only 0.18 microns wide. That is small. A red blood cell is about 40 times as wide. And you need microscopes to see them.

I’ll quit rambling and let others have a chance.

I want 10% of all the money you make from whatever product you derive from my great ideas. I’ll have my people contact your people; blah, blah, blah…

Will you be using it to hold two humpback whales as you travel forward in time to save Earth from a nasty probe?

While I was studying glass technology many (too many) years ago we were told of a glass developed specifically for use in a Sweedish prison. Being Sweedish and concerned with peoples welfare, even of bad people, they wanted large windows with nice views. They also wanted to keep the bad guys from running away. They used glass toughened in an ion exchange bath (replace small atoms in the lattice with big ones thereby putting the whole lattice in compression - glass is very strong in compression) laminated with regular glass but with very fine wires embedded for the alarm system - similar to what Chronos suggested. Tests demonstrated that a big guy with a pick axe needed about 20 minutes to break through. I doubt whether it could be used for a big current though.

Thank all of you for the input, even the jokey ones about Star Trek (I actually saw that coming, and almost stated in the OP “No I’m not looking to make a whale tank here”, but didn’t want to deprive any of my fellow Trekkers from a jibe at my expense.)

Anyhow, I can’t use the conductive wires imbedded for my purposes which I will explain in a moment and I think Arjuna34’s suggestion may fit the bill.

Anyhow, here is a hint in the form of a question:

Don’t you just hate windshield wipers? How about cleaning your windows, don’t you hate that too? I bet it’s really expensive to get windows on skyscrapers cleaned too.

I’m certain some of you can figure it out from that.

No problem - I’ll let you know where to send the royalty checks :wink:


No cite or site, but I recall the auto manufacturers were working on this for defrosting/defogging windshields, oh, about five years ago (that’s when I heard about it, they were probably working on it long before then). Not sure how this would replace windshield wipers, or clean skyscraper windows, though.

Heating it would do nothing, setting up a static charge of a specific frequency and pulsing it could repel rain and crud.

In last Friday’s Science:

Room-Temperature Ferromagnetism in Transparent Transition Metal-Doped Titanium Dioxide

Science Feb 2 2001: 854-856. Published online January 11, 2001; 10.1126/science.1056186 (Science Express Reports)
I just thought it was hilarious that a day after reading this topic, I came across the article.