Ever wonder how capacitive touchscreens are able to detect touch commands? You aren’t alone. While most people have used a touchscreen device before, few know how these devices operate.

Capacitive touchscreens are common. Capacitive, in fact, is the most popular type of touchscreen technology on the market. There are more capacitive touchscreens than resistive, surface acoustic wave (SAW), infrared (IR) grid and others. To learn more about capacitive touchscreens and how they work, keep reading.

What Is a Capacitive Touchscreen?

A capacitive touchscreen is a type of touch-controlled device that uses capacitance to detect touch commands. Capacitance is a measurement of electricity. Capacitive touchscreens essentially use electricity to determine when and where touch events occur.

Other touchscreens use pressure to detect commands. Resistive touchscreens, for instance, require physical pressure to identify when and where touch events occur. With a capacitive touchscreen, pressure isn’t required.

How Capacitive Touchscreens Work

While there are different types of capacitive touchscreens — projected, mutual capacitance, etc. — they all work by using capacitance to detect touch commands. When you power up a capacitive touchscreen, it will project a uniform electrostatic field across the top layer. The top layer features a conductive material, so it will absorb and retain the electrostatic field.

Assuming you touch the top layer with a separate conductive object, such as a conductive stylus or a bare finger, you’ll distort its electrostatic field. Conductive objects allow electricity to flow through them. When your finger is pressed against the top layer of a capacitive touchscreen, electricity will flow from the device to your body. The capacitive touchscreen will notice this change in capacitance, and it will respond by registering a touch event in the area where this change occurred.

Advantages of Capacitive Touchscreens

Since they don’t use pressure to detect touch commands, capacitive touchscreens have a long lifespan. They typically last longer than resistive touchscreens. When you perform a touch command, you’ll distort the electrostatic field. There’s no mechanical action, so it won’t wear down the capacitive touchscreen.

Capacitive touchscreens produce high-quality images. They are typically used liquid-crystal displays (LCDs), which support high-definition (HD) resolutions.

Capacitive touchscreens are also sensitive, which is a good thing because it makes them easy to use. As previously mentioned, they don’t require pressure. You can control a capacitive touchscreen simply by resting your finger — or any other conductive object — against the top layer.