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Smart coatings project aims to bring more readable display screens


Smart coatings that should allow cash machine, mobile phone and laptop display screens to be read much more easily in bright sunlight could soon be on the way, thanks to a major research project unveiled today.

Scientists from the University of Abertay Dundee and the University of Greenwich are joining forces with specialist screen and thin film coatings manufacturers in the £600,000 ENDSENSE project, which is part-funded by the Department of Trade & Industry.

The two-year project aims to develop new coatings for flat-panel display screens that will be able to sense light levels and adjust the output of the display to improve readability and efficiency.

Specialist custom electronics manufacturers Micro Circuit Engineering Ltd (Tewkesbury and Newmarket) and Thin Film Solutions Ltd (Glasgow) will develop new designs of screen assemblies with novel coatings, and the two universities will collaborate to provide sophisticated usability testing and computer modelling to test the new designs.

The results of the project will enable traditional and emerging display technologies to be more viewable and energy efficient in a wide range of ambient light conditions. As well as better displays for a wide variety of applications, the research team believes that its new technology could also open up other applications in solar cells and photovoltaic devices.

Dr Colin Cartwright of Abertay University’s School of Computing & Creative Technologies, said: “In conventional displays, separate filters in the system govern the optical performance of the display’s uniformity, brightness and contrast. What we hope to do with the new approach is to develop thin film coating materials that combine several optical functions to produce a more sensitive, higher performance, more energy efficient and lower cost display.

“Integrating many optical functions, possibly with conflicting mechanical, thermal, electrical and visual requirements is a major technical challenge, so we need rigorous computer modeling of all the variables. This will give us an integrated design tool that can be used for existing and future smart display technologies, and give the UK an unrivalled capability for producing smart optics for display applications.”

Professor Chris Bailey at Greenwich University will contribute multi-physics modeling, optimization and reliability. He said: “Manufacturers of devices incorporating displays will be able to specify and integrate optical components into their products that are a major advance on current display systems. By optimizing the optics of the displays, they will be able to offer greatly improved readability in high brightness conditions, slim form factors, good contrast ratios and wide viewing angles in their products. In addition, the feedback and control offered by the new smart coatings will reduce energy consumption by two to three times, extend service life and reduce ownership costs.”

The worldwide market for displays of all kinds is estimated to be more than £20 billion, giving any technological improvement a huge sales potential. Manufacturers of cash machines, automotive and marine displays have already expressed interest in the outcome of this project.

Kevin Coe | alfa
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