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Most Colorful Color Display Yet Eliminates Need For Backlight

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Innovators at the mobile technology company Qualcomm have found a way to break free of the backlight. And in the process, they've created the most colorful color display yet.

The new display is the latest version of Mirasol, an established commercial product from Qualcomm. Instead of emitting their own light, the Mirasol displays basically use a sophisticated mirror to selectively reflect light from the environment. Researchers report in a paper published in the journal Optica that they have solved many of the biggest problems that the technology has encountered so far, decreasing the display's power demands and making it easy on the eyes in bright environments. 

"No more squinting at a hard-to-read display outdoors where we spend much of our time," lead author John Hong, a researcher with Qualcomm MEMS Technologies Inc., said in a statement. "We ultimately hope to create a paper-like viewing experience, which is probably the best display experience that one can expect, with only the light behind you shining on the page."

Ironic is it may seem, the goal of all of this advanced engineering is to achieve an experience that is similar to what you get from a simple sheet of paper. Another advantage that paper has over digital displays is that paper never runs out of power. But because the design of the new Mirasol displays eliminates the need for a backlight, it also cuts down on power demands.

A combination of a reflective, mirror-like material and an absorbing material allows these displays to function without a backlight. On its own, the mirror-like material would simply reflect all of the light that shines upon it. But that absorbing layer soaks up particular colors of light depending on the size of the gap between the two layers. By controlling the size of the gap, the display can control the colors of light that hit the mirror-like layer and get reflected back to the viewer.

Since the display can selectively reflect any color of light that hits it, it can produce essentially every conceivable color. Current color displays, on the other hand, can only create colors by mixing different ratios of red, green, and blue. This is sufficient for most purposes, but does limit the range of colors and brightness possible for a display.

"We have developed an entirely new way of creating a color display," Hong said in a statement

Photo: Jared Tarbell | Flickr

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