Integrating Sensors into Smartphone Screens
Without a doubt, the screens of our many mobile devices are among their most important components, as they are essentially the devices’ faces. Now thanks to researchers from Montreal and Corning Incorporated, our screens may gain new uses. Using lasers they have successfully built waveguides into Gorilla Glass, making the screens into photonic devices.
Waveguides are essentially for light what wires are for electrons, so with precise construction they can be used to create some interesting systems. This is not the first time photonic systems have been built into displays before, and not the first time lasers have been used to do so. What makes this research novel is the use of Gorilla Glass and the simpler laser method it uses, which is ten times better at minimizing light loss. Obviously that helps, but the Gorilla Glass is also helping because of its greater internal stress and fewer irregularities, making the waveguides smoother and again, helping to minimize loss. Further, the laser system is able to create waveguides within the volume of the glass, instead of just on the surface, as more traditional photolithography techniques would. This enables the waveguides to be stacked on top of each other, allowing for more to be built into the screen.
Thus far the researchers have created two photonic systems this way; a temperature sensor and an authentication system that could uniquely identify phones. Also you may not have to wait long to get these systems in mobile devices, as the efficiency of the laser writing technique and waveguides makes this technology ready for commercial development.
Source: The Optical Society