June 19, 2014
See-Through Sensors Developed For Gorilla Glass Displays
Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Researchers have developed a new technology that in the future could provide greater security for mobile phones and allow handsets to track a user's biometrics all from the screen. The smartphone display could be embedded with layer upon layer of sensors, and these could track one's temperature, assess blood sugar levels for those who are diabetic, and even analyze DNA. The same technology could make it harder for a phone to be cloned.
The researchers at Polytechnique Montreal, working with the New York-based Corning Incorporated, have created the first laser-written light-guiding systems that are efficient enough to be developed for commercial use. The team published their findings on Wednesday in The Optical Society's (OSA) open-access journal Optics Express.
The use of lasers to make photonic waveguides has been accomplished before, but the researchers said that this is the first time anyone has applied this particular technique to Gorilla Glass, the tough transparent material that has a high internal stress and low irregularity. It was developed by Corning and is now used in billions of electronic devices. Corning introduced Gorilla Glass 2 in early 2012.
What makes this development notable is that the researchers were able to utilize this new technology to build two completely transparent systems. These included a temperature sensor and a new system for authenticating a smartphone using infrared light, and this was accomplished utilizing the same type of glass that is currently used in most smartphones, and the researchers further believe that this technology could eventually allow computing devices to be embedded into any glass surface.
This could include windows and tabletops and create the transparent touch screens that have thus far been seen only in works of science fiction on TV and in the movies.
"We're opening the Pandora’s box at the moment," said paper co-author Raman Kashyap , a professor of electrical engineering and engineering physics at Polytechnique Montreal in Canada, in a statement.
While the team has created the technology Kashyap added that "it's up to people to invent new uses."
The use in the Gorilla Glass also provides waveguides that are smoother and better at preventing light from escaping. The first author in the study, Jerome Lapointe of Polytechnique Montreal, also said that this new photonic waveguide is among the best that has been made utilizing lasers.
The researchers have demonstrated the technique by building a standard type of temperature sensors, which consist of both a straight and a curved waveguide, and when the glass was heated up it expanded and changed the path length of the guides. The researchers were able to measure the light that emerged from one waveguide interfered with the light from the other, and as a result the device could be used to measure the temperature of anything it touches.
In addition, the same technology could be used to create a new method for authenticating a smartphone based on waveguides with holes at various locations, which would allow light to escape and thus create a pattern that is truly unique to the device. Each handset could have its own distinct pattern, much like a fingerprint, and this could be read via an infrared detector as a way to confirm the identity of the handset.
The temperature sensor and authentication process are being patented and the research team hopes to optimize both for use in future consumer devices and these systems could potentially be integrated commercially into smartphones within a year.
"We are actively looking to partner with industry to exploit this technology," Kashyap added.