New Transparent Display System May Have Huge Advantage Over Current Technology (Video)

First Posted: Jan 21, 2014 01:10 PM EST

Transparent displays don't just look cool; they can also be used in windshields, eyeglasses and other devices in order to make displaying information easier and more effective. Now, researchers have come up with a new approach for transparent displays that could have huge advantages over existing systems.

Many current transparent displays use a mirror or beam-splitter in order to project an image directly into the user's eyes. This makes it appear as if the display is hovering in space somewhere in front of the viewer. Yet these systems are extremely limited in their angle of view; the eyes must be in exactly the right position in order to see the image at all. In this case, the scientists got around that issue. The new display can show images from a wide variety of angles and appears on the glass itself.

So how does this new system work? While others rely on expensive electronics directly integrated into the glass, the researchers decided to employ nanoparticles. These nanoparticles can be tuned to scatter only certain wavelengths, or colors, or light, while letting the rest pass right through. This means that the glass remains transparent enough to see colors and shapes clearly through it while a single-color display is visible on the glass.

"The glass will look almost perfectly transparent," said Marin Soljacic, one of the researchers, in a news release. "Because most light is not of that precise wavelength."

The displays could be used to project images on store windows or even on windshields for drivers or pilots. The fact that you don't have to rely on viewing angle to see the images would be a huge boon.

That said, the current demonstration that the researchers showed is just a proof-of-concept. Work still needs to be done in order to optimize the performance of the system and make it commercially viable. Yet the promising results do show that it's possible this technology will be available in the future.

"This is a very clever idea using the spectrally selective scattering properties of nanoparticles to create a transparent display," said Shanhui Fan, a professor at Stanford University not involved in the work, in a news release. "I think it is a beautiful demonstration."

The findings are published in the journal Nature Communications.

Want to see the display for yourself? Check out the video below, courtesy of MIT and YouTube.

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