Researchers create world’s thinnest display screen from soap bubbles

Researchers create world’s thinnest display screen from soap bubbles

Tōkyō : Japan | Jul 03, 2012 at 1:09 PM PDT
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A Colloidal Display: membrane screen that combines transparency, BRDF and 3D volume

They definitely look nice and if you catch a stray beam of light off of them, they look vivid in the colors that they present, but you would never think more of soap bubbles, being a benign byproduct from one’s daily lathering. But wouldn’t it be surprising to think that one day, cinemas of the future may very well use these soap bubbles to project films?

As outlandish as this may sound, scientists have already considered the prospect of using these very humble soap bubbles as possible screens in the cinemas of the future and the idea of it, according to the researchers, actually seems pretty viable.

Researchers from the University of Tokyo and the University of Tsukuba in Japan and Carnegie Mellon University in the US have created a one-of-a-kind display that projects images onto a soap bubble screen, making it, according to the international team, the world’s tinniest transparent screen.

While the mixture involved in this screen may not be your over-the-counter type, the chief component is soap and the screen that is created from it can be manipulated by ultrasonic sound waves to produce either 2D or 3D images.

Writing about the ‘soap screen’ on his blog, lead researcher Dr. Yoichi Ochiai, from the University of Tokyo, said, "It is common knowledge that the surface of soap bubble is a micro membrane. It allows light to pass through and displays the colour on its structure. We developed an ultra-thin and flexible BRDF [bidirectional reflectance distribution function, a four-dimensional function defining how light is reflected at an opaque surface] screen using the mixture of two colloidal liquids."

The soap screen that the team created was not opaque like traditional screens, but transparent and while regular soap bubbles pop when touched, this soap bubble remains unhindered even when an object is passed through it owing to the mixture of the two colloidal solutions that the team used to make the soap screen.

The soap screen can be adjusted using sound waves and according to the frequency applied can actually display the texture of the image projected, giving off a rough or smooth appearance. Dr. Ochiai explains, "Typical screens will show every image the same way, but images should have different visual properties. For example, a butterfly's wings should be reflective and a billiard ball should be smooth, and our transparent screen can change the reflection in real time to show different textures. Our membrane screen can be controlled using ultrasonic vibrations. Membrane can change its transparency and surface states depending on the scales of ultrasonic waves. The combination of the ultrasonic waves and ultra thin membranes makes more realistic, distinctive, and vivid imageries on screen. This system contributes to open up a new path for display engineering with sharp imageries, transparency, BRDF and flexibility."

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From: Raphael Quinet
arkar is based in Seattle, Washington, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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