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RU’s new color display technology can produce vivid colors likened to HD LCD displays (via Rice University)

 

Having the ultimate camouflage has certainly helped fictional characters such as Harry Potter, the Predator and Sue Richards (Fantastic Four) but could it ever become a reality for us mere mortals? It’s certainly a possibility thanks to some researchers from Rice University, who are developing metamaterials that could copy the way a squid camouflages itself by changing its colors. In essence, it’s materials that can ‘see’ colors and match them.


Metamaterials exhibit properties not found in nature and consist of multiple materials such as metals and plastics. Due to the material’s shape, geometry and orientation, it can effect light waves and sound, making them the ideal choice for a Predator type cloak. The key to those properties lies in the size of the structural elements themselves, which are smaller than the wavelength of the waves they effect. Obviously, the researchers capitalized on those properties in developing their ‘squid skin’. So how exactly could they achieve the ultimate camouflage without using magic of some kind? In a word- aluminum. Yep, in this case aluminum is the key, specifically aluminum nanorods that are densely packed into a 5-micron square pixel, which can deliver bright red, green and blue hues almost like an HD LCD display.


Rice University’s new display technology functions by varying the length and spacing of those aluminum nanorods, thereby creating dozens of vivid colors. Unlike plasmonic aluminum, which produces washed out colors, the nanorods allowed the researchers to focus the spectrum into a single, bright color. Could this new display technology be harnessed for the ultimate in HD LCD/LED TVs?


It isn’t out of the realm of possibility, as the researchers plan to build an LCD display using the technology and components found in most displays today, including liquid crystals, polarizers and individually addressable pixels. The aluminum nanorod-based pixels are about 40-times smaller than the pixels used in today’s LCD displays, with each nanorod measuring out at 100-nanometers long and 40-nanometers wide. To create the array, the researchers used electron beam dissipation in each pixel, thereby refining the color hue and polarizing light. This will also lead to new displays that won’t color fade over time when exposed to sunlight (could using my phone in direct sunlight finally be a possibility?).


Combined with other light sensing technology and we could see (or rather Not see) combat uniforms, tanks and even planes become invisible on the battlefield sometime in the ‘distant future’. Notice that last remark, the discovery is just one-step at developing the technology to become invisible, as more development is needed before that actually happens. Still, the research suggests that having the ultimate light-changing camouflage isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Considering the research was funded in part by the Department of Defense, chances are good that it will come to fruition but we may never ‘see’ what’s become of it!


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