Take an empty plastic bottle, and make it slide on a mobile screen. You would find that it's not doing anything. Now filled up this bottle with water and try doing the same. This time you will find that it's able to make the screen slide.

I wanted to know, How come filling up the bottle with water makes the difference?

I was seeing the working of the touch screens, Most of the mobile screens are resistive or capacitive type. The resistive screen is based on pressure response so it should make no difference whether or not the bottle is filled or not. On the other hand, the capacitive based on the charge that flow through the bottle to screen, The bottle is an insulator, so the charge is hard to flow. If you filled up the bottle, still there is a plastic in between the water and the screen, So it should not work again but it does. How come?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You are basically a bag of water too, don'tchya know? Do you know how capacitors work? It's two conductive plates with an insulator in between them and capacitors do allow dynamic and transient charge flow through them but prevent steady state charge flow. $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen Jun 12 at 5:12
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe the full bottle is exerting a greater force on the screen. $\endgroup$ – R.W. Bird Jun 12 at 15:24
  1. The difference between an empty bottle and a bottle filled with water is the difference between a resistor and a capacitor (or condenser).

  2. A capacitor does not let a continuous current through, but it does let a time-varying current through: https://www.allaboutcircuits.com/textbook/direct-current/chpt-16/capacitor-transient-response/.

On a historical note: The first capacitors were built with bottles and jars (see the Leyden jar): https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leyden_jar


This is on the assumption that you have not accidentally poured water on the outer surface of the bottle (no matter how little) - i.e., this surface is perfectly dry:

Explanation 1:

Note that air (the atmosphere around us) contains water molecules as well.

When you put cold water into a plastic bottle, due to condensation$^1$, water will collect on the outside of the bottle$^2$. Since water contains ions (and is therefore conductive), a capacitive touchscreen will react to such a surface in contact with it.

  1. Water collects as droplets on a cooler surface when warmer air is in contact with it. In this instance, the outer surface of the filled bottle becomes cooler then the surroundings (which is assumed to be warmer i.e., you're not in a cool environment, but for example, you are inside your home).

  2. I know that maybe not much water will collect when using standard tap water (because it is not that cold), but because the water is pretty much cooler than room temperature, some condensation will occur and my understanding is that some of these capacitive screens are pretty sensitive.

Capacitive touch screens react when any conducting surface (like your skin) comes in contact with it.

Explanation 2:

It is well known that a bottle filled with salt water can behave like a capacitor since salt water is an electrical conductor.

It is also known that tap water does contain charged particles, so it may be the case that a bottle of water can also behave (albeit much less pronounced than with salt water) as a capacitor.

How to test if both the above explanations are valid:

Redo your experiment, this time:

  1. Use warmer water to test the validity of the the first explanation.

  2. Try using distilled (pure) water to test the validity of the second explanation (distilled water has no conductive properties). If available, dip the two ends of a multimeter in the distilled water to indeed confirm it contains no anions/cations.

  • $\begingroup$ Let I'm taking a dry bottle. $\endgroup$ – Young Kindaichi Jun 12 at 6:09
  • $\begingroup$ Then if the water is cooler than the ambient temperature, condensation - water will collect on the outside of the bottle. Therefore when it comes in contact with the screen, it will work as a stylus. Cheers. $\endgroup$ – joseph h Jun 12 at 6:11
  • $\begingroup$ It's working with the hot water as well. $\endgroup$ – Young Kindaichi Jun 12 at 6:46
  • $\begingroup$ Be careful not to get any water on the outside of the bottle. Let it sit and dry for a while and use a hair dryer. Let me know the outcome. If this is the case, then try the second experiment. $\endgroup$ – joseph h Jun 12 at 6:48
  • $\begingroup$ It still working. $\endgroup$ – Young Kindaichi Jun 12 at 9:11

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