A tour of Corning’s labs will show you the brand new functions of Gorilla Glass. Even someday, our smartphone can test whether the surrounding water is clean enough to drink or not.
Although no clean water applications are currently available, Corning researchers have discovered that they can use Gorilla Glass, a toughened glass manufactured by the company. – to create extremely sensitive biochemical sensors that detect traces of toxic gases in the air or pathogens in the water.
The sensor is just one of many ongoing projects in Corning’s R&D laboratories in New York, USA. In recent decades, Corning’s advances in glass manufacturing have brought us technologies like fiber optics or flat panel displays. Now thanks to Gorilla Glass, it has helped create the latest smartphones. But despite the remarkable success of this tempered glass, Corning is still moving toward the next technological breakthrough.
In 2014, Corning spent about 8% of its revenue on R&D activities (product research and development). It is an investment of up to 800 million USD. The purpose of this is to prepare for the risk that one of its businesses may face difficulties like it has in the past. Between 2000 and 2002, Corning lost more than half of its revenue when the optical fiber business collapsed. Its shares have dropped from 113 USD / share to just over 1 USD / share. And now, the company faces a new challenge as its biggest customer, Apple, is close to replacing Gorilla Glass with sapphire glass.
Phone screens still account for nearly half of Corning’s revenue, and nearly a third of that comes from Gorilla Glass. To expand its market share and combat the challenges of other materials, Corning is trying to explore more features for this toughened glass, such as turning it into a sensor. Along with that, the company is looking for new markets for Gorilla Glass, in addition to the mobile screen market.
The ability to turn a phone screen into a biochemical sensor is one of the first steps of the project at Corning. Its researchers have discovered that they can create very high quality waveguides – which help guide light – in Gorilla Glass. They can create waveguides located close to the surface to turn the glass into a type of sensor. This is not feasible with conventional glass because they are very fragile. To make waveguides, scientists must project a high-intensity laser towards the surface of the glass, and then trace it onto the surface – a job that often changes the optical properties of the glass. glass.
To make a sensor from Gorilla Glass, researchers have to make a waveguide split into two separate lines. Then make the two roads converge, and the light on the two roads intersect. One line will act as the sensor line, and the other is the reference line. Even a slight change of light in the sensor path – such as its intensity – can be detected by observing the interference of light from the two paths. The researchers simulated this process with a simple sensor that could detect a change in temperature. When heated the sensor line, its shape will be changed, resulting in changes in the properties of light passing through this line.
Because the waveguides are located close to the surface, a portion of the light will escape from the glass, and anything placed on the glass will interact with that light. This means that to create a chemical or biological sensor, scientists can change the surface of the glass to keep a specific target. For example, we can add antibodies corresponding to E.coli to the glass. Meanwhile, to detect the presence of this bacterium, we will just need to drop a drop of water on the phone screen is done.
Because the waveguides are very small in size, they will not interfere with the screen’s visibility. And because of that, sensors for different chemical and biological objects can be integrated into the same smartphone.
Corning researchers have also found that Gorilla Glass has a very useful acoustic property, which is how this glass vibrates differently than conventional glass – it can suppress sound waves. The simplest application of this finding is to use Gorilla Glass as a soundproof glass.
But with this acoustical feature, scientists can turn Gorilla Glass displays into a set of speakers. Such a prototype was created in Corning’s lab. It consists of a wire on the inside of the screen, which is attached to a small actuator that vibrates the glass to make sound. Thanks to that, sound waves can be better controlled, helping to produce sound with a much better quality.
In another Corning lab, researchers are creating a very special glass window. It looked normal like any other glass window, but with just a switch on the circuit board, the glass had turned into a television screen, and viewers could only vaguely see the scenery behind the glass. But without showing the video, we can see through it like any other glass window. Corning still has a secret about how to create this type of screen.
The most mysterious item of Corning’s lab inventions is a glass slinky toy. It is created by a very thin type of Gorilla glass that is bent into a spiral using a newer laser tool. Slinky is a toy that when you hold one end and release the other, it will expand towards the ground. The glass will often crumble when doing so, but because Gorilla glass is harder, it will tend to bounce back like a spring. The key to creating this stretchable glass is making Gorilla glasses thinner.
Corning is also creating Willow Glass, a glass only 100 micrometers thick – a quarter of the thickness of Gorilla glass used as a phone screen. It can be delivered to customers in the form of “rolls”, making glass production cheaper and easier. Potential customers are still considering the applicability of this product, but right now, an even more flexible glass has been studied by Corning, according to Chief Technology Officer David Morse. . This glass can be folded around the edge of thin objects such as notebooks, and folds millions of times without breaking. It could be an important factor in foldable electronics in the future.
Founded in 1851, Corning glass manufacturer has existed since then thanks to the ability to constantly discover new uses of glass. When the optical fiber market collapsed, Corning’s manufacturing of glass-making cathode ray tubes was severely affected. But it overcame the crisis by inventing a process of producing high quality glass for transistors in LCD screens. A few years later, Corning received a call from Steve Jobs, who needed a toughened glass for his first iPhone. And Corning brought a whole new technology – a type of tempered glass called Gorilla Glass. Judging by what’s going on in the labs above, Corning seems ready for the next phone call.