Anytime I hear the word nano in a sentence, my ears instantly perk up. It’s a guarantee that what follows will be the result of bleeding edge R&D. So naturally I was intrigued to dive into a recent article in the professional journal Nature covering progress in fingerprint capture and skin temperature sensing that uses the word nano three times in the abstract alone. Here’s a quick overview of the development:
Researchers at South Korea’s Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology produced a thin, flexible sensor array membrane that can be used to detect pressure and temperature as well as capture a fingerprint scan when pressed. Other physical and electrical characteristics make it an ideal candidate for integration into smartphone displays to increase usable screen real estate on the device without sacrificing security.
The sensor array is made up of “networks of hybrid nanostructures using ultra-long metal nanofibers and finer nanowires…”.
Why it Matters
Recent smartphone models capture fingerprints using an opaque and dedicated area of the phone. In the case of android devices like the ones Samsung produces the sensor is on the back of the device which some people believe results in diminished usability. Apple iPhone’s Touch ID (in use on the recent iPhone 8) requires real estate on the front of the phone for the sensor. This new development is fully transparent, meaning its implementation under the screen itself would allow users to continue to use fingerprint biometric security and enjoy larger screens while keeping all interactions on the front of the device. In addition, the membrane allows detection of the range of human skin temperatures, thereby increasing security.
Since UNIST researchers are affiliated with Samsung through their Samsung Display-UNIST Center it’s a safe bet that Samsung android devices would be the first to benefit from the new processes outlined in the article. I was also fascinated to see the Wearable Electronics Research Group involved in this development. I see some interesting benefits from integrating a transparent fingerprint sensor into a smart watch.
Obviously, this tech faces a challenge from Apple’s Face ID (which maps the user’s face using the front-facing camera). Apple has said Face ID is more secure than fingerprint scans, but the full exploration of Face ID is beyond the scope of this article so we will save that for another day.
Byeong Wan An, Sanghyun Heo, Sangyoon Ji, Franklin Bien & Jang-Ung Park.
Used under the Creative Commons License