updated 07:11 am EDT, Thu June 19, 2014
Embedded sensors use etching to provide security, temperature detection
The glass on the front of smartphones could do more than protect the screen in the future, if research from Polytechnique Montreal becomes adopted. Researchers have found a way to embed transparent sensors into the glass itself, rather than above or below the glass, which could lead to fewer sensors in mobile devices, and in turn potentially lighter and thinner smartphones.
A paper published by Optics InfoBase states the researchers were able to embed optical waveguides into Gorilla Glass, a material deemed to have the lowest-measured loss value, fast production times, and produced the highest quality waveguides compared to other glass samples. PC World notes that one researcher was employed by Corning, the manufacturer of Gorilla Glass, and while the researchers are "actively looking" for partners to work on the technology, Corning itself has yet to stake a claim.
The waveguides allows for the detection of changes in light passing through the glass, with variances in the light measuring different aspects, depending on the etching and the glass. A temperature sensor, called the Mach-Zehnder interferometer, can measure the way light is altered by the glass warping under heat, for example. A second waveguide is suggested as a form of security against cloning, with the unique etching applying to just one screen when used with infrared light. It is suggested that, since waveguides are etched in three dimensions, they could be stacked in layers, all without losing any transparency in the glass itself.
Polytechnique Montreal professor of electrical engineering Raman Kashyap suggests the technology could be included by manufacturers in smartphones and mobile devices within a year of "focused development."