Video screens are made up of hundreds of thousands of pixels that display different colors to form the images. With current technology, each of these pixels contains three subpixels — one red, one green, and one blue. A new method was developed to tune the color of the subpixels. The new color-changing surface could lead to three times the resolution for televisions, smartphones, and other devices.
By applying differing voltages, the color of individual subpixels can be changed to red, green, or blue — the RGB scale — or gradations in between; for example, a red subpixel can be changed to blue. Traditional displays require three static color filters to show the full RGB color; in the new display, a single subpixel-less pixel can be tuned across a given color gamut.
By eliminating the three static subpixels that currently make up every pixel, the size of individual pixels can be reduced by three. Three times as many pixels means three times the resolution. That would have major implications for augmented reality and virtual reality headsets that need very high resolution because they’re so close to the eye. And because there would no longer be a need to turn off some subpixels to display a solid color, the brightness of screens could be much greater.
The inventors created an embossed nanostructure surface resembling an egg crate, covered with a skin of reflective aluminum. Several variations of this nanostructure were required to achieve the full range of colors. Modifying the roughness of the surface allowed a full range of colors to be achieved with a single nanostructure. The nanostructure surface can be easily integrated with existing display technology, so the underlying hardware wouldn’t need to be replaced or re-engineered.