Beyond your screen: How glass is making your smartphone more powerful

Without glass, there would be no swiping left. There’d also be no swiping right, for that matter. It seems obvious to say that glass is an important part of your smartphone’s touchscreen, but there is so much more that glass does to make mobile technology possible. It’s an important component of the cameras, displays, and sensors used in phones today, and possibly even the antennas that knit together the network in the future.

Each of these applications requires glass with specific – and surprising – properties. Read on to find out how specialty glass is making today’s and tomorrow’s mobile technology possible.

High-definition photography:

glass in smartphone camerasNo lens, no camera. That’s obvious. But high-end, high-resolution digital photography requires a special filter to make cameras behave like our eyes and replicate true color. In high-quality phones and digital single-lens reflex cameras, these filters are called near-infrared (NIR) cutoff filters, and they play a vital role in producing high-quality photographs in difficult light or extreme conditions.

NIR cutoff filters are typically found in any camera that shoots above five megapixels, and are much more reliable than one alternative, known as interference filters. The trick is producing glass thin enough for smartphones that still absorbs a high level of NIR light. That’s something SCHOTT has done with its Blue Filter Glass.

Curved glass for the human touch:

Smartphones are increasingly turning to fingerprint sensors as a security device. Nearly seven of every ten phones shipped in 2018 will have a fingerprint sensor. It has to be strong, prepared to withstand the human finger pushing it dozens of times per day for years.

SCHOTT AS 87 eco is thinner than a human hair, polished with fire, and almost as hard as sapphire glass. These properties ensure excellent optical transmission characteristics that are important to sensors, while at the same time remaining scratch resistant. And because SCHOTT AS 87 eco can be bent and molded, it can be shaped to the curve of a finger.

glass in smartphones

Faster computer chips, sensors, and processors:

Ultra-smooth glass is an essential component to manufacturing faster and more powerful sensors and processors in smartphones. During that process, glass and silicon are bonded to ensure the wafer is flat and free from imperfections.

SCHOTT MEMpax

In most cases, glass substrates must be polished to tolerances measured by the millionth of a meter. SCHOTT MEMpax is extra thin, and no longer needs to be ground and polished. Manufacturers can work cost-effectively on fire-polished surfaces even at thicknesses of below 500 micrometers, forming the basis for ever-faster computer chips, processors, and sensors in the semiconductor industry.

Glass in antennas for 5G networks:

A standard LTE network or Wi-Fi base station uses just a handful of send and receive antennas. That’s usually fine, but in soccer stadiums or city centers, demand for cell services may exceed supply, jamming the network. And while jammed networks may be relatively rare now, the number of smartphone users is also increasing, as is data use.

One solution to these problems are Massive Multiple Input/Multiple Output (MIMO) antennas. MIMO technology combines dozens of antennas inside a small space, with glass used as a substrate for the integration of circuit elements within some sophisticated RD projects. This is the technology ushering in 5G networks.

Glass beyond the screen

Our smartphone screens are right in our faces, and that’s probably why they get the most attention. But as you can see, a number of glass components, each with highly specific properties, make smartphones possible, from manufacturing to faster streaming.

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Hi, I’m Dave Vanderpool! I’ve been with SCHOTT North America since 2001, currently serving as Sales Manager, Thin Glass & Wafer. I received my B.S.E.E. from Florida Atlantic University and worked as an electronics engineer for five years before going into sales. In my spare time I enjoy hiking with my wife, rock climbing, and making the world’s greatest grilled cheese sandwiches.

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