New tech could create next-level 'metasurface' flat screens

Friday, 03 March, 2023

New tech could create next-level 'metasurface' flat screens

An international team of researchers from Nottingham Trent University in the United Kingdom, the Australian National University (ANU) and UNSW Canberra, has created nanoparticles called ‘metasurfaces’ that perform better than current screen displays for electronic devices like LCDs and LEDs.

LCDs and LEDs rely on liquid crystal cells to create a display on TVs and other screens. The researchers’ metasurfaces are 100 times thinner than liquid crystal cells, offer a greater resolution and consume less energy. The researchers also believe that their technology is compatible with modern electronic displays. Lead researcher Mohsen Rahmani, Professor of Engineering at Nottingham Trent University, said that replacing the liquid crystal layer in current displays with a metasurface enabled them to make affordable flat screens liquid crystal-free.

“The most important metrics of flat panel displays are pixel size and resolution, weight and power consumption. We have addressed each of these with our meta-display concept. Most importantly, our new technology can lead to a huge reduction of energy consumption — this is excellent news given the number of monitors and TV sets being used in households and businesses every single day. We believe it is time for LCD and LED displays to be phased out in the same way as former cathode ray tube (CRT) TVs over the past 10 to 20 years,” Rahmani said.

Dragomir Neshev, ANU Professor in Physics, said the capability of conventional displays has reached its peak and has “multiple limitations”. “Today there is a quest for fully solid-state flat display technology with a high resolution and fast refresh rate. We have designed and developed metasurface pixels that can be ideal for the next-generation display. Unlike liquid crystals, our pixels do not require polarised lights for functioning, which will halve screens’ energy consumption,” Neshev said.

Image credit: Jamie Kidston/ANU

Khosro Zangeneh Kamali, a PhD scholar at ANU and the first author of the study, said metasurfaces are proven to exhibit extraordinary optical behaviour; despite that, researchers are still searching for an effective way to control them. “We have proposed electrically programmable silicon metasurfaces, which is a versatile platform for programmable metasurfaces,” Kamali said.

Professor Andrey Miroshnichenko, a team member from UNSW Canberra, said the new pixels are made of silicon, which offers a long lifespan in contrast with organic materials required for other existing alternatives. “Moreover, silicon is widely available, CMOS-compatible with mature technology, and cheap to produce,” Miroshnichenko said.

The researcher team hopes that their development could generate a frontier technology in new flat displays. The research findings were published in the journal Light: Science & Applications.

Top image caption: ANU PhD researcher Khosro Zangeneh. Image credit: Jamie Kidston/ANU

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