Color-tunable subpixel potentially increases display resolution by factor of three

Egg-crate-shaped liquid-crystal structure creates plasmonic resonances.

Researchers at the University of Central Florida (Orlando, FL) have developed a new color-changing surface tunable through electrical voltage, usable for display pixels that could lead to three times the resolution for televisions, smartphones, and other devices.1

With current technology, display pixels ordinarily contain three subpixels (red, green, and blue), or similar configurations (for example, four subpixels: red, green, blue, and white or yellow).

But a advance at UCF's NanoScience Technology Center may eventually make that model a thing of the past. Assistant professor Debashis Chanda and physics doctoral student Daniel Franklin have come up with a way to electrically tune tune the color of these subpixels. By applying differing voltages, they are able to change the color of individual subpixels to red, green or blue (the RGB scale) or gradations in between.

By eliminating the three static subpixels that currently make up every pixel, the size of individual pixels can be reduced by three, boosting the resolution by 3X. And because there would no longer be a need to turn off some subpixels to display a solid color, as there would be no more subpixels, the brightness of screens could be much greater.

Franklin and Chanda built on earlier research that demonstrated the world’s first proof-of-concept display utilizing the plasmonic phenomenon (Nature Communications, Vol. 6, pp. 7337, 2015).

They have created an embossed nanostructure surface resembling an egg crate, covered with a skin of reflective aluminum, the combination of which induces a plasmonic reference. However, they needed several variations of this nanostructure to achieve the full range of colors. In their latest advance, they found that modifying the roughness of the surface allowed a full range of colors to be achieved with a single nanostructure.

The nanostructure surface can be easily integrated with existing display technology, so the underlying hardware wouldn't need to be replaced or re-engineered.

The researchers are now taking steps to scale up their displays in preparation for bringing the technology to the private sector.



1. Daniel Franklin et al., Nature Communications (2017); doi: 10.1038/ncomms15209

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