A team of researchers has developed a technique for creating the world’s first full-color, flexible thin-film reflective display.
University of Central Florida’s Debashis Chanda’s research was inspired by nature. Traditional displays like those on a mobile phone require a light source, filters and a glass plates, but animals like chameleons, octopuses and squids are born with thin, flexible, color-changing displays that don’t need a light source-their skin.
Chanda was able to change the color on an ultrathin nanostructured surface by applying voltage. The new method doesn’t need its own light source. Rather, it reflects the ambient light around it.
A thin liquid crystal layer is sandwiched over a metallic nanostructure shaped like a microscopic egg carton that absorbs some light wavelengths and reflects others. The colors reflected can be controlled by the voltage applied to the liquid crystal layer.
The interaction between liquid crystal molecules and plasmon waves on the nanostructured metallic surface played the key role in generating the polarization-independent, full-color tunable display.
The display is only about few microns thick, compared to a 100-micron-thick human hair. Such an ultrathin display can be applied to flexible materials like plastics and synthetic fabrics.
The research has major implications for existing electronics like televisions, computers and mobile devices that have displays considered thin by today’s standards but monstrously bulky in comparison, but the potentially bigger impact could be whole new categories of displays that have never been thought of.
The study appears in the journal Nature Communications.