Imagine Digital Displays That Were Glare-Free & Self-Cleaning

April 27, 2012 by Dave Haynes

The crazy-smart kids and their profs at MIT have released details and visuals of what could be the glass of the future for everything from eye-wear to public displays.


The glass eliminates glare, water droplets actually bounce off and dust and dirt struggle to stick.

The glass developed in the lab has arrays of microscopic spiked shapes – called nanocones – etched into the glass. This is a variant of nanotechnology already being used in apparel to make jackets water repellent, and the same ideas have also being applied to anti-glare materials.

Imagine having a digital poster network outside that had glass that reduced the need for ultra high-bright panels and dealt nicely with the day to day grime. MIT has not yet, however, established a way to auto-remove graffiti, handbills and chewing gum.

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As Dvice reports:

Despite being coated with all of these fragile little nanocones, the MIT glass is apparently rugged enough to stand up to daily use and abuse in outdoor environments. It could certainly get some work done as the windshield on your car (glare-free and built-in anti-fog), or as the surface of a solar panel that’s up to 50% more efficient when not pointed directly at the sun. What you really want to hear is that it could end up fronting your TV and smartphone as well, and MIT says that’s a definite possibility.

The only hurdle now is to figure out a good (i.e. fast and cheap) way of etching nanocones in large sheets glass. MIT’s prototype uses a multi-step photo etching process, but it may be possible to just fabricate a set of rollers with a texture of nanopits, which when rolled over sheets of molten glass would stamp out endless rows of nanocones with essentially zero effort. Even at that point, more testing needs to be done to figure out how well the structure of the glass holds up to real world applications.


  1. Eric Schmidt says:

    I wonder how it would react to oils from skin, etc… With the proliferation of touchscreen usage and gesturing there are a lot of questions about how to keep these public devices clean (especially in healthcare facilities). I’ve heard of anti-microbial coatings, but something that was resistant to general smudges would be fantastic too…

  2. TheVok says:

    Why would gesturing pose a cleanliness issue, Eric?

  3. Dave Haynes says:

    Sorry, I meant gesturing from the perpective of the pinches and swipes, as opposed to Kinect-like gestures

  4. Eric Schmidt says:

    All those fingers dragging on the screens can definitely leave smudges… Obviously no such issues exist for Kinect style implementations, but based on my use of the Kinect on the ol’ XBOX at home, the accuracy of that technology is definitely not as precise as touchscreens! I’m looking forward to trying out the new Kinect for Windows though…

  5. Paras says:

    Eric, Are you the Google guy, Eric?

  6. Eric Schmidt says:

    Sadly, I am not of Google fame…

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