An improvement to decades-old LCD technology promises to turn the surface of almost anything into a full-color digital display. At the very least, it brings color-changing gadgets closer to reality.
The device is called a cholesteric liquid crystal display (chLCD), and it's been developed by Kent Displays Inc. The same tech is at the heart of the Fujitsu color e-reader we've written about before, but Kent demonstrated a new application for the materials at the SID Display Week conference recently. Three layers of the material, in red, green and blue, are printed onto a flexible substrate using cheap roll-to-roll technology. In between each is a very narrow layer of resin that allows for the final material to be bendy without damaging the chLCD structures.
But that's not the clever bit, this is: The final flexible display can be heat-formed, so it can be moulded to almost any shape. Kent demonstrated it by coating a cellphone with the chLCD screen, and that instantly gives you the ability to change its color to any of seven possible RGB combinations. Most interestingly, because the display only consumes power when it's changing color, it's a very energy efficient system.
The possibilities are literally endless—imagine a phone that turns red when in silent mode to let you know you have a new message, or even color-changing wallpaper. It also doesn't stop at single colors, either. According to Kent there's no reason you can't build pixels into the system, and the next version will be capable of over 4,000 colors. In other words, this may be the way to achieve the kind of digital screen-everywhere ideas we've been seeing in sci-fi movies for decades.
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