In a world where technology is constantly evolving, it’s no surprise that scientists are now taking inspiration from animals to create the latest and greatest gadgets. The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has recently announced their newest invention: flexible displays that can change color, convey information, and even send veiled messages via infrared radiation.
But how did they come up with this groundbreaking idea? Well folks, it all started when some engineers got really into chameleons and octopuses’ morphing skins. They thought “hey if these creatures can do it naturally why not make something similar but robotic?” And thus capillary-controlled robotic flapping fins were born!
These new switchable optical and infrared light multipixel displays are 1,000 times more energy efficient than your average run-of-the-mill light-emitting devices (LEDs). How you ask? By using bendable fins filled with fluids which simultaneously switch between straight or bent AND hot or cold by controlling the volume and temperature of tiny fluid-filled pixels! It’s like old-fashioned flip clocks on steroids people!
The study led by mechanical science professor Sameh Tawfick shows just how varying the volume of fluids within each pixel changes directions in which those flaps flip – creating different images along curved surfaces too! But wait there’s more…varying temperatures allows for communication through IR energy as well so we’re talking two birds one stone here guys.
Tawfick explains his interest in elasto-capillarity began during grad school while studying hair wetting…which somehow lead him down a path towards soft robotics at UIUC (we don’t know either).
So what does this mean exactly? Small boxes called pixels containing polymer-made flexible fins will be arranged into arrays forming display screens capable conveying any message desired- whether visible only under an infrared camera lens OR seen clearly without aid whatsoever depending upon individual droplet temps controlled precisely enough achieve complex motions such simulating flower blooms opening up!
But alas, there are limitations to this new technology. The tiny pumps needed for controlling pixel fluids aren’t commercially available yet and the entire device is sensitive to gravity – meaning it only works horizontally (bummer). But fear not! Tawfick says they’ve found a solution: smaller fluid droplets that won’t be affected by pesky gravitational forces.
The team plans on focusing their next application of emerging tech around understanding how gravity affects these small liquid drops so as soon as those little guys become insensitive enough we’ll have displays capable being placed onto curved surfaces without any issues whatsoever- talk about exciting stuff people!
Tawfick’s enthusiasm towards his invention knows no bounds; he believes this could revolutionize large reflective display markets with minimal energy requirements while remaining scalable AND flexible enough even when put on curvy things like cars or buildings…the possibilities really seem endless here folks.
Illinois researchers Jonghyun Ha, Yun Seong Kim, Chengzhang Li, Jonghyun Hwang Sze Chai Leung and Ryan Siu also participated in research which was supported by both Airforce Office Scientific Research & National Science Foundation grants too making sure everything stays above board legally speaking at least 😉