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Improved Liquid Crystal Could Set the Stage for Next-Gen Displays

Credit: Penn State/Khoo Lab

You’re not even gonna believe how much fidelity we’re in for here.

Flat-screen TVs and monitors employ LCD screens. That stands for “liquid crystal display.” Liquid crystal, as the name may imply, is an odd little sauce that flows like a liquid, but possesses molecules arranged like a solid crystal. This stuff is great for displays because it can easily control the amount and color of light that passes through it, giving you a crystal-clear picture, pun unintended. A team of researchers from Penn State may have discovered a method to create even better liquid crystal that could pave the way for a truly picturesque display.

The research team, which also included participants from the Air Force Research Laboratory and the National Sun Yat-sen University in Taiwan, devised a new technique to subtly alter the structure of liquid crystal. The crystals the team was working with, blue-phase liquid crystals, usually assemble themselves into a cubic structure. This is fine for average image fidelity, but the team discovered that by running an intermittent electric current through the crystals, they could gradually shape them in new ways. These new patterns conduct light like nobody’s business, able to touch anywhere within the visible spectrum. They also feature an improved reaction time, which means you get a clear, crisp picture with no loss of frames per second.

They still need to figure out how to stabilize these new and improved liquid crystals into a proper structure before they can be turned into a screen. If they can make this work, though, the resulting picture will be one hair shy of looking out a window.