Welcome!

News Feed Item

Making Smartphones Smarter with See-through Sensors

Your smartphone’s display glass could soon be more than just a pretty face, thanks to new technology developed by researchers from Montreal and the New York-based company Corning Incorporated. The team has created the first laser-written light-guiding systems that are efficient enough to be developed for commercial use. They describe their work in a paper published today in The Optical Society’s (OSA) open-access journal, Optics Express.

A photograph of the laser writing setup. Credit: Jerome Lapointe

A photograph of the laser writing setup. Credit: Jerome Lapointe

This revolutionary work could open up new real estate in the phone by embedding the glass with layer upon layer of sensors, including ones that could take your temperature, assess your blood sugar levels if you’re diabetic or even analyze DNA.

The researchers have used their new technology to build two completely transparent systems—a temperature sensor and a new system for authenticating a smartphone using infrared light—into a type of glass that's currently used in most smartphones.

In addition to biomedical sensors, the technology could also eventually allow computing devices to be embedded into any glass surface, such as windows or tabletops, creating the transparent touchscreens seen in movies like Avatar and Iron Man, the researchers say.

“We’re opening the Pandora’s box at the moment,” says paper co-author Raman Kashyap, a professor of electrical engineering and engineering physics at Polytechnique Montreal in Canada. Now that the technique is viable, “it’s up to people to invent new uses” for it, he says.

To make their see-through temperature-sensing and phone-authentication systems, the researchers turned to photonics. While electronic devices transmit information via electrons, photonic devices use light. The researchers used lasers to carve out transparent pathways called waveguides into the glass. These waveguides act as tunnels that channel light, analogous to the way electronic wires convey electrical signals, and form the basis for a host of applications.

Although people have used lasers to make photonic waveguides before, this is the first time anyone has applied the technique to Gorilla® Glass, a tough glass with high internal stress and low irregularity, developed by Corning that's now used in billions of electronic devices.

According to first author Jerome Lapointe of Polytechnique Montreal, this new photonic waveguide is the best that's ever been made using lasers. While no waveguide is perfect—light will inevitably leak out due to imperfections—the new waveguides created by the team are 10 times better at minimizing such loss than previous ones made with lasers, he says. And because Gorilla Glass has greater internal stress and less irregularities than other types of glass, the waveguides are smoother and better at preventing light from escaping. This also means the researchers can use lower energy ultra-short laser pulses at a high repetition rate, which results in smoother and more efficient waveguides.

Current techniques such as photolithography—which uses light-sensitive chemicals to etch or deposit material—are very good at minimizing light loss, but the team’s laser method is cheaper and simpler, Lapointe says. Also, photolithography restricts waveguides to the surface of the glass. But using lasers enables researchers to make waveguides at any depth, allowing them to create many applications, one on top of each other, like layers in a cake. Layering the waveguides within the glass itself paves the way for more compact devices, which means you could squeeze more apps into your phone.

Temperature Sensors and Secure Transactions

To demonstrate their technique, the researchers built a standard type of temperature sensor that consists of a straight and a curved waveguide. When the glass heats up, it expands and changes the path length of the waveguides. By measuring how the light that emerges from one waveguide interferes with light from the other, the device can measure temperature – yours or that of anything it touches.

The researchers also developed a new method for authenticating a smartphone based on waveguides with holes at various locations. The light that escapes through those holes creates a pattern that is unique to their arrangement. The idea is that each phone would have its own unique pattern, like a fingerprint, which could then be read by an infrared detector to confirm the identity of the phone as an additional layer of security for making financial transactions using smartphones. Such transactions could be relatively safe because instead of using radio frequency they use infrared light, which is blocked by most materials and therefore cannot be copied through a pocket or purse.

Both the temperature sensor and authentication system are being patented and the team is hoping to optimize them for use in consumer devices.

“We are actively looking to partner with industry to exploit this technology,” Kashyap says. With focused development, he adds, the two systems could potentially be integrated commercially into smartphones within a year.

The other members of the team are Mathieu Gagné of Polytechnique Montreal and Ming-Jun Li of Corning.

Paper: “Making Smart Phones Smarter with Photonics,” J. Lapointe et al., Optics Express, vol. 22, Issue 13, pp. 15473-15483 (2014).

EDITOR’S NOTE: Images are available to members of the media upon request. Contact Lyndsay Meyer, [email protected].

About Optics Express

Optics Express reports on new developments in all fields of optical science and technology every two weeks. The journal provides rapid publication of original, peer-reviewed papers. It is published by The Optical Society and edited by Andrew M. Weiner of Purdue University. Optics Express is an open-access journal and is available at no cost to readers online at www.OpticsInfoBase.org/OE.

About OSA

Founded in 1916, The Optical Society (OSA) is the leading professional society for scientists, engineers, students and business leaders who fuel discoveries, shape real-world applications and accelerate achievements in the science of light. Through world-renowned publications, meetings and membership programs, OSA provides quality research, inspired interactions and dedicated resources for its extensive global network of professionals in optics and photonics. For more information, visit www.osa.org.

More Stories By Business Wire

Copyright © 2009 Business Wire. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Business Wire content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Business Wire. Business Wire shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

Latest Stories
DX World EXPO, LLC, a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based startup trade show producer and the creator of "DXWorldEXPO® - Digital Transformation Conference & Expo" has announced its executive management team. The team is headed by Levent Selamoglu, who has been named CEO. "Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation," he said in making the announcement.
"Space Monkey by Vivent Smart Home is a product that is a distributed cloud-based edge storage network. Vivent Smart Home, our parent company, is a smart home provider that places a lot of hard drives across homes in North America," explained JT Olds, Director of Engineering, and Brandon Crowfeather, Product Manager, at Vivint Smart Home, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Conference Guru has been named “Media Sponsor” of the 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. A valuable conference experience generates new contacts, sales leads, potential strategic partners and potential investors; helps gather competitive intelligence and even provides inspiration for new products and services. Conference Guru works with conference organizers to pass great deals to gre...
DevOps is under attack because developers don’t want to mess with infrastructure. They will happily own their code into production, but want to use platforms instead of raw automation. That’s changing the landscape that we understand as DevOps with both architecture concepts (CloudNative) and process redefinition (SRE). Rob Hirschfeld’s recent work in Kubernetes operations has led to the conclusion that containers and related platforms have changed the way we should be thinking about DevOps and...
The Internet of Things will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, demonstrated how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and shared the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the develop...
In his Opening Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, John Considine, General Manager of IBM Cloud Infrastructure, led attendees through the exciting evolution of the cloud. He looked at this major disruption from the perspective of technology, business models, and what this means for enterprises of all sizes. John Considine is General Manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services at IBM. In that role he is responsible for leading IBM’s public cloud infrastructure including strategy, development, and offering m...
The next XaaS is CICDaaS. Why? Because CICD saves developers a huge amount of time. CD is an especially great option for projects that require multiple and frequent contributions to be integrated. But… securing CICD best practices is an emerging, essential, yet little understood practice for DevOps teams and their Cloud Service Providers. The only way to get CICD to work in a highly secure environment takes collaboration, patience and persistence. Building CICD in the cloud requires rigorous ar...
Companies are harnessing data in ways we once associated with science fiction. Analysts have access to a plethora of visualization and reporting tools, but considering the vast amount of data businesses collect and limitations of CPUs, end users are forced to design their structures and systems with limitations. Until now. As the cloud toolkit to analyze data has evolved, GPUs have stepped in to massively parallel SQL, visualization and machine learning.
"Evatronix provides design services to companies that need to integrate the IoT technology in their products but they don't necessarily have the expertise, knowledge and design team to do so," explained Adam Morawiec, VP of Business Development at Evatronix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Jack Norris, Senior Vice President, Data and Applications at MapR Technologies, reviewed best practices to ...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
"ZeroStack is a startup in Silicon Valley. We're solving a very interesting problem around bringing public cloud convenience with private cloud control for enterprises and mid-size companies," explained Kamesh Pemmaraju, VP of Product Management at ZeroStack, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Large industrial manufacturing organizations are adopting the agile principles of cloud software companies. The industrial manufacturing development process has not scaled over time. Now that design CAD teams are geographically distributed, centralizing their work is key. With large multi-gigabyte projects, outdated tools have stifled industrial team agility, time-to-market milestones, and impacted P&L stakeholders.
"Akvelon is a software development company and we also provide consultancy services to folks who are looking to scale or accelerate their engineering roadmaps," explained Jeremiah Mothersell, Marketing Manager at Akvelon, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Enterprises are adopting Kubernetes to accelerate the development and the delivery of cloud-native applications. However, sharing a Kubernetes cluster between members of the same team can be challenging. And, sharing clusters across multiple teams is even harder. Kubernetes offers several constructs to help implement segmentation and isolation. However, these primitives can be complex to understand and apply. As a result, it’s becoming common for enterprises to end up with several clusters. Thi...