Corning has unveiled anti-microbial Gorilla Glass, which is bonded with ionic silver (an antibacterial agent) and partially intended for industries—including health care and hospitality—where a lot of people might end up tapping and swiping the same touch-screen throughout the course of the day. (Corning has posted a short video on YouTube that provides an overview of the technology.)
“Corning’s Antimicrobial Gorilla Glass inhibits the growth of algae, mold, mildew, fungi, and bacteria because of its built-in antimicrobial property, which is intrinsic to the glass and effective for the lifetime of a device,” James R. Steiner, senior vice president and general manager of Corning Specialty Materials, wrote in a statement. “Our specialty glass provides an excellent substrate for engineering antimicrobial and other functional attributes to help expand the capabilities of our Corning Gorilla Glass and address the needs of new markets.”
Corning has already established a high-volume production capability for the new glass, which can be installed in a number of devices, including smartphones, tablets, computers, panels, and more. The company’s engineering challenge, of course, was to design glass capable of inhibiting the growth of algae and bacteria while maintaining sensitivity to touch and overall toughness. Unlike antibacterial wipes (or a paper towel soaked in some sort of antiseptic spray), which clean surfaces but leave them open to future bacterial growth, the ionic silver layer constantly fights microscopic interlopers.
If this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is demonstrating anything, it’s that the market for touch-sensitive glass is expanding rapidly beyond smartphones and tablets. In addition to the touch-screen laptop-tablet hybrids proliferating on the show floor, wearable electronics (such as Pebble’s second-generation “smartwatch”) are making their debut. Like all mobile devices, these new categories demand hardware equally capable of input sensitivity and toughness; and given their proximity to human bodies, a little anti-microbe action couldn’t hurt, either. But it remains to be seen whether Corning’s new glass becomes a standard, or if manufacturers choose to stick with the microbe-prone version.