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Flexible Film Creates Colors from Reflected Light

Photonics.com
Jun 2015
ORLANDO, Fla., June 26, 2015 — From couture to camouflage, a new ultrathin color-changing film could one day change what we wear.

Unlike other flexible display technology, the film, which was developed at the University of Central Florida, reflects rather than emits light. It was created using a simple and inexpensive nanoimprinting technique that can produce a plasmonic nanostructured surface over a large area.

Display

A National Geographic photograph of an Afghan girl is used to demonstrate the color-changing abilities of the nanostructured reflective display. Courtesy of the University of Central Florida.


A thin layer of high-birefringence liquid crystal is sandwiched over a metallic nanostructure shaped like an egg carton that absorbs some light wavelengths and reflects others. The colors reflected can be controlled by voltage applied to the liquid crystal layer.

Interaction between liquid crystal molecules and plasmon waves on the nanostructured metallic surface play the key role in generating the polarization-independent, full-color tunable display.

The research has implications for existing electronics like TVs, computers and mobile devices, which already have slim displays that could become even slimmer. But the larger potentially impact could be in clothing, according to professor Debashis Chanda of the university's NanoScience Technology Center and the College of Optics and Photonics (CREOL).

"Your camouflage, your clothing, your fashion items — all of that could change," he said. "Why would I need 50 shirts in my closet if I could change the color and pattern?"

Funding came from the Florida Space Institute and NASA. Chanda was recently awarded $300,000 from the National Science Foundation to continue his research.

The work was published in Nature Communications (doi: 10.1038/ncomms8337).

For more information, visit www.ucf.edu.



GLOSSARY
liquid crystal
A type of material that possesses less geometrical regularity or order than normal solid crystals, and whose order varies in response to alterations in temperature and other quantities. Liquid crystals are characterized by phase varieties, including cholesteric, nematic and smectic. The optical properties of liquid crystals are familiar from their use in displays, known as LCDs.
reflection
Return of radiation by a surface, without change in wavelength. The reflection may be specular, from a smooth surface; diffuse, from a rough surface or from within the specimen; or mixed, a combination of the two.  
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