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Gorilla Glass embedded with sensors could lead to smarter displays

Researchers from Plantronicstechnique Montreal in Canada and Corning have successfully managed to implant transparent sensors into Gorilla Glass.
June 19, 2014
asus fonepad gorilla

Corning Gorilla Glass is pretty well-known in the world of smartphones, due to its impressive durability and scratch resistance. It’s a pretty essential piece of technology for many a mobile devices, but what if I told you that a simple looking piece of glass could do so much more? What if, it was smart as well?

Researchers from Plantronicstechnique Montreal in Canada and Corning have successfully managed to implant transparent sensors into Gorilla Glass, turning the glass panel into a sensor array for mobile devices. The team’s technology makes use of optical waveguides, which funnel photons through the glass channels, rather than relying on electricity through wires, thus keeping the glass transparent. Each sensor has to be painstakingly laser-etched just below the surface of the Gorilla Glass, which turns out to be the ideal material for this etching process.

As for practical implementations, the research team has already created a light based temperature sensor, known as a Mach-Zehnder interferometer (MZI), and an infrared light security identification system, which is designed to prevent the cloning of devices.

The temperature sensor is particularly interesting, as it doesn’t directly measure the temperature of the air on the screen. Rather it detects the way in which the glass deforms under heat, in order to deduce the temperature as light passes through the waveguide. A separate research team has also developed their own force sensitive sensor, using a similar technique, which could allow for more flexible touch controls.

Gorilla Glass Sensor Etching
Laser etching seen above, although you won’t be able to see the waveguides with the naked eye.

Despite Corning’s involvement in this research, as of yet, there are not any plans to bring this technology into future Gorilla Glass products. However, Raman Kashyap, a professor of electrical engineering at the Plantronicstechnique Montreal, stated that it should be possible for manufacturers to start building the sensor glass into smartphones within a year, if more focus is put into development. The university is currently looking for an industry partner to put its technology into a finished product. Looking past smartphones, Kashyap anticipates a future where sensors could be embedded into virtually any glass surface.

Although it is still very early days for this technology, the researchers have at least demonstrated that even the protective glass screen in a smartphone can be made more interactive. In the future, our smartphones might just be that little bit smarter.