Have you heard of surface acoustic wave (SAW) touchscreen technology? While not as popular as capacitive or resistive, it’s used to power countless touchscreen devices. Below, you’ll learn more about SAW touchscreens and how they work.

#1) Proposed Over a Century Ago

You might be surprised to learn that the acoustic waves on which SAW touchscreens work was proposed over a century ago. According to Wikipedia, British scientist and researcher Lord Rayleigh described the properties of surface acoustics in a paper. While he didn’t necessarily talk about touchscreen devices at the time, his paper paved the way for modern SAW touchscreen devices.

#2) Highly Sensitive

One of the benefits of SAW touchscreen devices is a high sensitivity. You don’t have to press or tap the display interface with excessive pressure. Rather, performing light-pressure touches on a SAW touchscreen will register your command. Their high sensitivity allows them to easily and quickly register touch commands.

#3) Ultrasonic Sound Waves

They are called “surface acoustic wave” touchscreens because they rely on ultrasonic sound waves — also known simply as acoustic waves — to detect touch commands. SAW touchscreen devices project ultrasonic sound waves across the surface of the display interface. When you touch or tap the display interface, the sound waves are disrupted in the area of your touch command.

#4) Bare Finger, Gloved Finger or Stylus

You can control a SAW touchscreen device using either a bare finger, a gloved finger or a stylus. Since they register touch commands by measuring and looking for blockages in sound waves, any object — as well as a bare finger — will trigger a command. As long as your finger or the object disrupts the sound waves, it will register your touch command. Not all touchscreen devices work with a gloved finger or stylus. Capacitive touchscreens, for example, typically only work with a bare finger.

#5) Durable and Long-Lasting

SAW touchscreen devices are both durable and long-lasting. Since they register touches by looking for disruptions in ultrasonic sound waves, they experience minimal wear from regular use. As a result, SAW touchscreen devices last a very long time, making them a smart investment for businesses.

#6) Superficial Contamination

On the other hand, superficial contamination can affect the performance of a SAW touchscreen. The dirt, dust or other debris accumulates on the display interface, it may block some of the ultrasonic sound waves, essentially triggering false touch commands.