What is essential is invisible to the eye: see it all with a smartphone!
MONTREAL, Sept. 18, 2014 /CNW Telbec/ - Your smartphone's display glass
could soon do much more than just look pretty. That's what researchers
from Polytechnique Montréal have just established by creating laser-written light-guiding systems
that are efficient enough to be developed for commercial use.
This revolutionary technology could, for instance, embed the display
glass with layer upon layer of sensors, sensitive enough to take your
temperature, assess your blood sugar levels if you're diabetic or even
analyze your DNA.
This discovery offers limitless possibilities. "We're opening Pandora's
box at the moment," says Raman Kashyap, professor of electrical
engineering and engineering physics at Polytechnique Montréal. "Now
that this technique is viable, what remains is to invent new uses for
it. This is why we are actively looking to partner with industry to
develop this technology."
An article published in The Optical Society's (OSA open-access photonics journal Optics Express describes how Polytechnique researchers succeeded in using infrared
light to integrate their see-through temperature-sensing and
phone-authentication systems into Gorilla® Glass, a strong, dense glass
that's now used in most smartphones.
"It's easy to imagine how the technology could also eventually allow
computing devices to be embedded into any glass surface, such as
windows, tabletops, telephone screens, creating totally transparent
tactile surfaces," says Jérôme Lapointe, lead researcher and doctoral
student at Polytechnique Montréal. "It would be like adding a new
dimension to the real world that our eyes can see."
You would simply need to place the screen of your smartphone in front of
your field of vision to get information about what you're seeing. By
touching the screen, the details would appear. The potential for
interaction is unlimited. At the museum, for example, you could hold
your phone screen in front of a work to learn all about it. On the
street, GPS applications would become obsolete; to find a restaurant,
hotel, or tourist attraction, you would just have to scan your
surroundings to find what you're looking for.
For this science fiction to become reality, quality transparent devices
first have to be made within the glass used in smartphones. To do this
successfully, Polytechnique's researchers turned to photonics. They
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 variety of applications.
The challenge for the researchers was to make high-quality devices that
could interact directly with the outside world. They created a
temperature sensor that consists of one straight and one 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 the temperature of anything it touches.
To create the smartphone authentication system, Polytechnique
researchers used waveguides with tiny holes at various locations. The
light that escapes through these 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.
About Polytechnique Montréal
Founded in 1873, Polytechnique Montréal is one of Canada's leading
engineering teaching and research institutions. It is the largest
engineering university in Québec for the size of its graduate student
body and the scope of its research activities. With over 41,400
graduates, Polytechnique Montréal has educated nearly one-quarter of
the current members of the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec.
Polytechnique provides training in 15 engineering specialties, and has
248 professors and more than 7,500 students. It has an annual operating
budget of over $210 million, including a $82-million research budget.
SOURCE: Polytechnique Montréal
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