Cuttlefish are camouflage experts that can change skin color in under a second to hide from predators, or prey on others. They’re inspiring more than just awe from scientists. Now researchers at MIT are working on electronic screens and ink that use less than one hundredth the energy of traditional screens–all modeled on the color-changing abilities of cuttlefish.
The researchers’ prototype reflective screen is several square inches across and just one micron thick. The screens are cheap and easy to make with layers of polystyrine and poly-2 vinyl. When voltage increases, the poly-2 vinyl expands to reflect longer wavelengths of light, beginning with blue and ending with red. Scientists working on the project claim that the screen can also reflect non-visible waves of light. The screen stays completely dark if there’s no light in the room.
Other institutions working on reflective screens include Microsoft, Sun Chemical Corp., and Cornell University. The screens have a ways to go before they can compete with LED and OLED. Images are difficult to see if you aren’t sitting in front of the screen, and the screen can only be used in lit areas.