Bonnie Cha

Recent Posts by Bonnie Cha

Good News, Germaphobes: Corning Working on Bacteria-Killing Smartphone Screens

Here’s something to think about: Your cellphone — the one that you hold up to your face during phone calls or fervently tap on to text friends — probably contains more bacteria than a public toilet seat. Go ahead, I’ll give you a minute to wipe down your screen.

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This really shouldn’t surprise us, though. Consider all the places we bring our smartphones — to work, the gym, the bathroom — and the number of people and things we come into contact with in a day, and you can see how your phone would become a breeding ground for bacteria. But at least one company is working on technology to clean up that problem.

As reported by Phone Arena, Corning, the U.S.-based glass and ceramics company behind the protective Gorilla Glass screen found on many smartphones today, is developing an anti-microbial glass cover that can kill drug-resistant bacteria and viruses.

Jeff Evenson, senior vice president and operations chief of staff at Corning, gave a brief overview of the technology at the MIT Technology Review’s Mobile Summit last month. In his presentation, Evenson showed a comparison of two pieces of glass covered with E. coli bacteria — one standard and one using the new anti-microbial technology. Within 30 minutes, there was a reduction in the number of bacteria on the anti-microbial glass and within two hours, all the bacteria was gone, whereas the standard glass saw no change.

He said the company began working on the technology for the healthcare industry, but decided to expand its reach to consumers after reading a report about the number of germs found on mobile devices. Studies from Stanford University and the University of London have found the presence of E. coli and other coliforms (bacteria found in fecal matter) on touchscreens.

Corning

In addition to the anti-microbial display, the company is also working on creating screens that are easier to see in bright sunlight. See the picture to the left of a piece of glass with a hole in the middle? Well, it’s actually not a hole at all. Rather, it’s a section of the glass that uses Corning’s new anti-reflective technology.

Evenson didn’t provide any specific details about the technology behind these two new glasses or when we’d see them hit the market, other than to say they’d be rolling out over the next two years. I’ve reached out to the company for more information but have yet to hear back.

In the meantime, you can check out Corning’s full presentation at the Mobile Summit here. And if you’re really grossed out by how dirty your smartphone is, there are anti-bacterial screen wipes (many companies don’t recommend using household cleaners for your electronics’ screens) and anti-microbial cases. Also, not to sound like a nagging parent, but wash your hands frequently and try to resist the urge to use your phone or tablet in the bathroom, okay?


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik