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Smarter smartphones on the horizon

Smarter smartphones on the horizon 

This technology could measure your temperature, assess blood sugar levels or analyze DNA. Scientists have built two completely transparent systems—a temperature sensor and a system authenticating a smartphone using infrared light. In addition to biomedical applications , this technology will allow computing devices to be embedded into glass surface, such as windows or tabletops. Researchers used photonics, which uses transparent pathways into the glass that channel light, analogous to the way electronic wires convey electrical signals.

Although photonic waveguides have been used before, this is the first time the technique has been applied to to Gorilla Glass, a tough material with high internal stress and low irregularity, now used in billions of electronic devices.

According to Jerome Lapointe of Polytechnique Montreal, this photonic waveguide is the best that’s ever been made. While no waveguide is perfect—light will inevitably leak out due to imperfections—the new waveguides are 10 times better at minimizing such loss. Gorilla Glass’ high internal stress and the fact that it has fewer irregularities than other types of glass make it better at preventing light from escaping.

Current techniques such as photolithography are good at minimizing light loss, but this laser method is cheaper and simpler, Lapointe said. Also, photolithography restricts waveguides to the surface of the glass, but lasers can make waveguides at any depth and in layers. Layering the waveguides within the glass paves the way for more compact devices, which means more apps squeezed onto your phone.

The temperature sensing works by measuring how the light that emerges from one waveguide interferes with light from the other. Then, the device can measure temperature – yours or that of anything it touches.

The new method for authenticating a smartphone is based on waveguides with holes at various locations, allowing light that escapes through those holes to create a unique pattern to their arrangement. Each phone has its own pattern which helps confirm the identity of the phone and act as additional layer of security for financial transactions via smartphones. These types of transactions cannot be copied.

Both the temperature sensor and authentication system are being patented. “We are actively looking to partner with industry to exploit this technology,” Kashyap said. With focused development, he adds, the two systems could potentially be integrated commercially into smartphones within a year.

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