Do you think your new Samsung Galaxy S6 is thin? Compared to a new screen inspired by the skin of octopuses, it’s incredibly bulky.
The new screen, which measures just a few microns thick compared to the 100 microns of a typical human hair, is flexible and uses only a tiny amount of power. That makes it perfect for clothing and wearables. Imagine a soldier who can change their camouflage in an instant, or a smartwatch with a month-long battery life.
The secret to the flexible new display is that it doesn’t need its own light source. Instead, it reflects ambient light in the same way as the e-ink screen on a Kindle. But to get full colour, the new screen can adjust the wavelengths of light it reflects by changing how an electric current passes through it.
As there’s no backlight to power, like there is with common LCD screens, the new display doesn’t need a big battery, making it even more suited for use in clothing and mobile devices.
The screen was developed by a team led by Professor Debashis Chanda from the University of Central Florida, who said: "All manmade displays - LCD, LED, CRT - are rigid, brittle and bulky. But you look at an octopus, they can create colour on the skin itself covering a complex body contour, and it's stretchable and flexible. That was the motivation: Can we take some inspiration from biology and create a skin-like display?"
One of the best things about Chanda’s new technology is that it can be made easily and cheaply using existing technology. That should make it a popular choice in the near future.
With flexible screens like this one, a future where every surface is a screen can’t be far away.