Smallest Pixels Ever Can Cover and Light Up Buildings

Nanotech

 

The smallest pixels ever created can be used for the next generation of large-scale flexible displays, large enough to even cover entire buildings / Photo by: Bob T via Flickr

 

The smallest pixels ever created—a million times smaller compared to those in smartphones—can be used for the next generation of large-scale flexible displays, large enough to even cover entire buildings.

The University of Cambridge led a team of scientists in developing the color pixels, which are made by trapping particles of light beneath tiny gold rocks. They are compatible with the so-called roll-to-roll fabrication on flexible plastic films, Science Daily reports, adding that this compatibility effectively reduces the production cost.

At the core of the pixels is a tiny particle of gold some billionths of a meter across, sitting atop a reflective surface and traps light in the gap in between. Each grain is surrounded by a thin sticky coating that chemically changes when electrically triggered, which causes the pixel to alter its color throughout the spectrum.

Moreover, the golden grains are coated with polyaniline—an active polymer—and are sprayed onto flexible mirror-coated plastic. This procedure significantly reduces the production cost of the color pixels.

The pixels themselves can be seen in bright sunlight and doesn't need constant power to maintain their set color, which enables them to have an energy performance that makes large areas more feasible and sustainable.

"These are not the normal tools of nanotechnology, but this sort of radical approach is needed to make sustainable technologies feasible," said research leader Jeremy J. Baumberg, a professor at the NanoPhotonics Center at Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory.

Baumberg said that the bizarre physics of light on the nanoscale enables the switch function even if less than a tenth of the whole film is coated with the active pixels.

"That's because the apparent size of each pixel for light is many times larger than their physical area when using these resonant gold architectures," the lead author explained.

Aside from flexible displays, the pixels could also be used for a host of new application possibilities like architecture that can turn off solar heat load, active camouflage clothing and coatings, as well as minuscule indicators for future Internet of Things devices.