Updated November 17, 2018 09:55:18A new way of storing data in glass windows could revolutionise the way we shop, shop and store.
Researchers at the University of Oxford have shown that glass windows can be made with a single click.
This new technology could allow people to shop online without having to remove the glass, while storing their data in the cloud.
“Glass windows can enable people to take advantage of technologies that are already being used in stores,” said Professor David Smith, a lecturer in the School of Information and Communication Science and Technology.
“By using this new technology, we could potentially replace many of the existing physical barriers between retailers and consumers.”
The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, involved using glass clips to attach to a sheet of transparent glass, which was then cut away to expose the window, and then the clipart was added.
This allowed researchers to remove most of the glass from the window without breaking it.
“This technique could be used to store a variety of data, from financial data to photos to maps, and potentially even entire databases of information,” said the paper’s lead author Dr Richard Jardine, who is also an associate professor of engineering at Oxford.
“We can now store large amounts of data without having access to physical glass or glass clips.”
Professor Smith said the cliparts could be inserted directly into glass windows to store and retrieve data.
“You could store everything from weather forecasts to financial data in your own glass window,” he said.
“In the future, we might be able to store even more data without physically opening up the window.”
While the technology is still at an early stage, Professor Smith said that the technology could be developed to store photos in the future.
“It’s important to note that the current technology works in a way that’s extremely secure, so it’s a pretty good way to do it,” he explained.
“However, we’re very far from having the technology to actually store all that data.
This is the next step, but it is a big step.”
The research, published by the Engineering Department of the Oxford University, involved scientists using a new technique called ‘micro-lens’.
This technique works by covering the edges of a surface with a thin layer of transparent film and then taking a photo of the area as it is.
“If you can take a photo with a camera that has a lens and you’re not going to use it, you have to do the same with a lens that doesn’t have a lens,” Professor Smith explained.
This technique has been used in many other fields, including in medical imaging, which is typically stored on a computer screen.
“Micro-lenses can be very expensive, but if you can use them for this, it’s really cheap,” Professor Brown said.
Professor Smith explained that this could mean that glass window manufacturers could potentially use micro-lensing technology to save money.
“A lot of the materials that we currently use in the glass industry are made from materials that can be cheap and easy to make, and so if you could reduce the cost of glass, you could save a lot of money in terms of labour and materials,” he noted.
“What’s interesting is that these materials are cheap, so you could probably do this for the whole glass industry.”
Professor Jardate added that micro-lighting could potentially reduce the price of the material, although it was not clear how this would be done.
“The big challenge is how do you get a small light source into the glass to give the same brightness as the light coming from a big camera,” he added.
“Another challenge is that if you do have an expensive light source, you might have to use a different wavelength to get the same light.”
Dr Smith said micro-light sources would be particularly useful in areas where there are limited indoor lighting.
“I think it’s going to be very useful in a number of industries where you can’t have any outdoor lighting, or you don’t have good indoor lighting,” he continued.
“For example, for some industrial applications, where you have very small factories or warehouses, you can potentially do it in glass.”
Professor Brown said microlight could also be useful for people with visual impairments.
“People with visual impairment have some difficulty seeing the light in the dark, and microlight will help them see clearly in the light, which could be very helpful for them,” he told BBC Future.
Professor Jordine said that, at the moment, microlight was very expensive.
“But there’s a lot we’re learning about it and there are some very promising developments,” he observed.
“And there are really exciting applications for micro-lights.”