The quest to create artificial "squid skin" — camouflaging metamaterials that can "see" colors and automatically blend into the background — is one step closer to reality, thanks to a color-display technology by Rice University's Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP).
The new full-color display technology uses aluminum nanoparticles to create the vivid red, blue, and green hues found in today's top-of-the-line LCD televisions and monitors.
The breakthrough is the latest in a string of recent discoveries by a Rice-led team that set out in 2010 to create metamaterials capable of mimicking the camouflage abilities of cephalopods — the family of marine creatures that includes squid, octopus, and cuttlefish.
LANP's new color display technology delivers bright red, blue, and green hues from five-micron-square pixels that each contains several hundred aluminum nanorods. By varying the length of the nanorods and the spacing between them, LANP researchers Stephan Link and Jana Olson showed they could create pixels that produced dozens of colors, including rich tones of red, green, and blue that are comparable to those found in high-definition LCD displays.
Olson said the array setup allowed her to tune the pixel's color in two ways, first by varying the length of the nanorods and second by adjusting the length of the spaces between nanorods.
"This arrangement allowed us to narrow the output spectrum to one individual color instead of the typical muted shades that are usually produced by aluminum nanoparticles," Olson said.
The researchers hope to further develop the display technology and eventually to combine it with other new technologies that the squid skin team has developed both for sensing light and for displaying patterns on large polymer sheets.
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