Written by Jonny Williamson
The improved glass works due to a surface incorporated with nano-textures, in this case an arrangement of conical features that are five times as tall as their base width of 200 nanometers. The manufacturing process involves incorporating coating and etching techniques developed in the semiconductor industry to progressively form the cones layer by layer.
The manufacturing process, which the team is in the process of patenting, is relatively inexpensive with the added benefits of creating a glare-free surface, one which resists fogging and causes water droplets to roll off it, removing dust and dirt in the process.
Potential applications for the glass include screens for smartphones, tablets, televisions and laptops, as well as solar panels, vehicle windshields, optical devices and possibly the windows installed in buildings.
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Kyoo-Chul Park, a mechanical engineering student who co-authored the research paper, described the potential future benefits:
“Photovoltaic (Solar) panels can lose as much as 40 percent of their efficiency within six months as dust and dirt accumulate on their surface. But a solar panel protected by the new self-cleaning glass would have much less of a problem. In addition, the panel would be more efficient because more light would be transmitted through its surface, instead of being reflected away.”
Optical devices, such as microscopes and cameras, used in humid environments would benefit from the anti-fogging and anti-reflective properties, and used in any touch-screen device the glass would eliminate glare, as well as resist contamination by sweat.
Since the beneficial properties of the glass are achieved through the nano-textured pattern of the conical pattern itself, rather than how the pattern is actually made, the conventional production process needs just one step added to it to make these properties adopted throughout the industry. The semi-molten glass, or transparent polymer film, could be simply passed between a pair of textured rollers to imprint the crucial pattern, at a minimal additional cost to manufacturers.