The ironclad knight might soon be able to change from black to gold, as a UCF research team has had a breakthrough and created the world's first full-color, flexible thin-film reflective display.

Debashis Chanda, an assistant professor in UCF's NanoScience Technology Center and the College of Optics & Photonics, lead a research team of students where they raised two main concerns: how to create color and how to change that color.

"Chanda's research was inspired by nature. Traditional displays like those on a mobile phone require a light source, filters and glass plates. But animals like chameleons, octopuses and squids are born with thin, flexible, color-changing displays that don't need a light source — their skin," according to a press release by UCF spokesman Mark Schlueb.

Research began to break away from the traditional backlight that most people are familiar with, and Chanda and his team began to work on a nanostructure to create color.

Chanda is able to change the color on an ultrathin nanostructured surface by applying voltage. The new method doesn't need its own light source — it reflects the ambient light around it, the release states.

After creating the nanostructure, some form of material was needed to change the color, and liquid crystal has a unique reaction with electric current, changing how the wavelengths of light operate.

The team decided to go with a shallow, symmetric shape that would allow the visible color to be equal from any and all viewpoints. The depth was chosen to work with the second part of the design, the liquid crystal. This change allows a once red image to appear blue.

Pegasus Professor of Optics & Photonics Shin-Tson Wu said that the combination of nanostructure and liquid crystal was required for this development.

"This is a truly interdisciplinary research area. Collaboration is very important, and this is an excellent demonstration," Wu said.

Daming Xu, a CREOL Ph.D. student, said he is excited about the breakthrough, and also sees its potential applications.

"Display technology is such a fascinating technology, and it has a very, very huge market. The display market has already exceeded $140 billion last year," Xu said.

While creating and changing color isn't a new concept, using ambient light with such thin materials has allowed this display to be printed on plastic. Chanda and his team created a display that not only uses ambient light as a source, but also created flexibility.

Chanda said the new technology can be applied to any surface where one can find a way changing color and pattern has importance, and camouflage and fashion could both be impacted by this breakthrough.

It may be hard to imagine a tank or a military vehicle to have the ability to change color based on the terrain the vehicle is in, but as this technology advances, this idea may be right around the corner.

"Imagination is the limit," Wu said.


Johnathan Kuntz is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.

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