The display screen of your smartphone will soon not just be a pretty face. Researchers have developed the world's first laser-guided system that can pack see-through sensors in the display glass itself.
These sensors could take your temperature, assess your blood sugar levels if you are diabetic or even analyse your DNA.
What's more, in addition to biomedical sensors, the technology could also eventually allow computing devices like windows or tabletops to be embedded into any display glass surface - creating transparent touchscreens.
"We are opening the Pandora's box at the moment. Now that the technique is viable, it is up to people to invent new uses for it," said Raman Kashyap, professor of electrical engineering and engineering physics at Polytechnique Montreal in Canada.
The researchers have used the new technology to build two completely transparent systems - a temperature sensor and a new system for authenticating a smartphone using infrared light.
To make the 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," Kashyap explained.
Researchers used lasers to carve out transparent pathways called waveguides into "Gorilla Glass".
Developed by New York-based company Corning Incorporated, this is a toughened glass with high internal stress and low irregularity now used in millions of electronic devices.
"We are actively looking to partner with the industry to exploit this technology," Kashyap noted.
The two systems could potentially be integrated commercially into smartphones within a year, said a paper published in the open-access journal Optics Express.