Technology

Flexible 'skin-like' colour display developed

Reflected display image Image copyright University of Central Florida
Image caption The researchers demonstrated the technique by producing an image of the photograph Afghan Girl, which appeared on the June 1985 cover of National Geographic

A fully flexible colour display inspired by chameleon skin has been developed by a team in Florida.

Its creators say it could be used to alter soldiers' camouflage instantly, allow normal clothes to change colour, or create low-powered e-reader screens.

The colour change is achieved by applying different voltage levels to the display.

The team has been given a $300,000 (£190,000) grant to develop the technology further.

"You create a surface which absorbs some light, and reflects the remaining light," Prof Debashis Chanda, of the University of Central Florida, told the BBC.

"[When we add] the ability to selectively absorb different colours, the remaining amount of light creates the different colour perception."

Image copyright University of Central Florida
Image caption Prof Debashis Chanda has been given a grant to continue his research in this area

He said the technology was some way off being a commercially available product, as he wanted to refine it further.

Prof Chanda told the BBC the amount of voltage needed to power the display was low enough to be safe.

"We all carry multiple batteries," he said.

"Your pocket has a cell phone - having a tiny battery is not really too much of a danger. A tiny battery will be able to power this process."

Stretchable and flexible

Previous attempts at creating similar technology produced displays that could produce only a limited colour palette.

Prof Chanda said his technology was the first to offer the full RGB colour model - red, green and blue.

The design of the display had been inspired by nature, he said.

"All manmade displays - LCD, LED, CRT - are rigid, brittle and bulky," he said.

"But you look at an octopus, they can create colour on the skin itself, covering a complex body contour, and it's stretchable and flexible.

"That was the motivation, 'Can we take some inspiration from biology and create a skin-like display?'"

The display is extremely lightweight - thinner than a human hair.

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