BY LINDA BAKER
The 2011 Corning Glass video sensation, A Day Made of Glass, depicted a future in which people surf the web on a glass tabletop and check the weather on a bathroom mirror. Now engineers at Oregon State University, a pioneer in the field of transparent electronics, may be one step closer to making the Corning Glass vision a reality. The development hinges on the use of zinc tin oxide (ZTO) and a device called a memristor, expected to be the next big thing in electronic-storage technology. Although flash-memory computer chips are now embedded in almost all modern electronics, flash is nearing the end of its useful life, says John Conley, an OSU professor of engineering. Memristors offer opportunities to create even smaller, faster storage products, says Conley, whose research shows that ZTO, a cheap and environmentally benign compound, could be used to control memristive memory. He says the compound is also see-through and thus a good fit for transparent electronics, so ZTO could be used in flat-panel and liquid-crystal displays. The next step is to improve the material’s endurance and speed, he says. Conley muses on the Corning vision of web-accessible shop windows and car windshields. “Pretty cool,” he says.