Innovation That Matters

The electronic paper could help produce e-readers, advertising signs and other digital screens with minimal energy consumption | Photo source Marika Gugole/Chalmers

Reflective screen offers same colour resolution as LEDs

Computing & Tech

A new design for a reflective screen gives high colour quality using a fraction of the energy

Spotted: Traditional digital screens, like those on computers and many e-readers, use a backlight to illuminate the text or images they display. While this works great indoors, anyone who has tried to work outside knows that they are much more difficult to use in bright sunshine. Reflective screens, which use the ambient light, are much better for outdoor viewing, but they don’t offer the same quality of images and colour. This may be about to change, thanks to new research conducted at Chalmers University, Sweden. 

Researchers in the university’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering had already developed a flexible electronic paper that could display the same range of colours as an LED screen, using just one-tenth the energy. However, that design did not reproduce the colours with a high enough quality. This new research uses a porous, nanostructured material containing tungsten trioxide, gold and platinum to render the colours more accurately on the screen. 

To create the screen, researchers inverted the original design, “placing the component which makes the material electrically conductive underneath the pixelated nanostructure that reproduces the colours – instead of above it”. This results in viewers looking directly at the pixelated surface, and seeing the colours much more clearly. The resulting reflective screen uses less energy consumption and causes less eye strain than traditional screens. 

Lead researcher Andreas Dahlin, a Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, explained that the main goal in developing the screens is to find a sustainable, energy-saving solution, pointing out that with ambient screens, “energy consumption is almost zero because we simply use the ambient light of the surroundings.” He adds that, “A large industrial player with the right technical competence could, in principle, start developing a product with the new technology within a couple of months.” 

Written By: Lisa Magloff

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