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No more filthy smartphone screens with Corning's new Gorilla Glass

Corning has demonstrated its super-transparent glass that actually kills bacteria. Are we all going to be safe from dirty touchscreens and phone surfaces?
July 3, 2013
That hole at the middle? That's actually still glass!
That hole at the middle? That's actually still glass!

Corning’s new generation (Gorilla Glass 4?) of thin and durable glass is expected to pack new features that may make Dragontrail and even the superbly durable sapphire glass appear inferior. This time, it’s not just a solution similar to oleophobic coating, Nokia’s ClearBlack display polarizer system, or Sony’s OptiContrast design. The new Gorilla Glass itself will have significantly lower reflectance compared to every other glass used to cover the displays of mobile devices.

This anti-reflection technology was already hinted at by Corning’s director for marketing and commercial operations at the Computex expo in Taipei last June. Now, the company has a convincing demonstration of the kind of dramatic reflectance reduction its new glass will offer.

At the MIT Mobile Technology Summit, Corning’s senior vice president and operations chief of staff, Dr. Jeffrey Evenson, presented the evident effect of the company’s new technology in reducing the reflectiveness of glass. He showed an image of a thin sheet of glass that appears to have a hole at its center. The hole, as Evenson revealed, turns out to be the portion coated by Corning’s new anti-reflection solution. There was actually no hole on the glass! It was an optical illusion that demonstrated the kind of technology that would seem to be the perfect solution to the visibility limitations of most displays outdoors, under bright sunlight.

Every glass-covered device on the market suffers visibility problems under the sun. Even the devices touted to have the highest display brightness and contrast can’t adequately compensate for the reflectivity of the tempered glass used to cover them. With Corning’s new technology, the future of better outdoor display visibility looks assured.

Going beyond clarity, here are a few highlights of Corning’s latest products:

  • The glass can withstand an enormous amount of pressure, at 10 gigapascals. That’s equivalent to the weight of 10,000 elephants stacked atop an area covering that same theoretical elephant’s foot.
  • Glass is essentially super-cooled liquid, so regular glass “flows” and “sags” after time. In contrast, Corning’s glass will take 20 trillion times the Earth’s age to show a visible sag.
  • Glass is impermeable, especially compared with plastic. Corning explained that a molecule of oxygen can pass through a one-millimiter thick piece of plastic in two weeks’ time. Its glass? About 30 billion years. Since water and oxygen are enemies of OLED and other advanced display technologies, Corning says its glass is the best enclosure for these displays.

Not that you’re going to let an elephant dance atop your smartphone screens, but these only show how strong Corning’s glass is in terms of compressive stress. Now as for impact resistance and bending, that’s a different thing altogether.

No more filthy touchscreens

Even better, Corning also presented their antimicrobial solution to filthy mobile devices. The upcoming Gorilla Glass will come with a technology designed to minimize bacterial proliferation on mobile displays. Evenson showed a clip that compares bacterial presence between standard glass and the new Corning antimicrobial glass after two hours. A microscopic view of the two glass surfaces showed the apparent effectiveness of Corning’s antimicrobial solution. The company claims that their new glass offers more than 106 bacterial reduction potential.

These new features, obviously, don’t mean any advantage for some other applications of durable glass like using it as roofing for benches or as windshields, where reflectance is deemed advantageous. These are meant for the glass used on the displays of mobile devices, as well as for televisions, desktop and laptop computer monitors, and the giant displays used in outdoor advertising. Also, reduced reflectance will benefit solar energy panels, a market that Corning also plans to exploit with its flexible solar power roofing glass.

Corning claims that its durable glass is now used in approximately 1.5 billion devices. This 162-year-old company holds the biggest market share in the tempered glass market worldwide. The announcement of its new Gorilla Glass features is expected to solidify its dominance as the leading supplier for smartphone and tablet glass covers. Still, the company appears to have no intentions of slowing down on its offerings. It has also launched this month the Corning Willow Glass, a super-slim flexible glass that appears to be the perfect partner for LG’s or Samsung’s upcoming flexible displays.