Sunday, 2 July 2017

Moth Eyes and Antireflective Phones

Summer is here! So that also means squinting really hard to try and read things on your phone screen outside – an annoyance I know all too well.
However, scientists at the College of Optics and Photonics (CREOL), University of Central Florida have developed a new antireflection film that could stop this problem happening. Currently, an iPhone has a surface reflection of 4.4% but this new material has only 0.23% surface reflection meaning that a lot less light will reflect off the surface making it easier to read in bright sunshine.

The material was developed by a team of scientists lead by Pegasus Professor Shin-Tson Wu at CREOL and was published in Optica, The Optical Society's journal for high impact research.
The material was actually inspired by the nanostructures that can be found in the eyes of moths.
Moth eyes are covered with an intricate pattern of nanostructures which are antireflective and help the moth to see in the dark and avoid predators who are looking for the reflection of light in their prey's (the moth) eyes. The anti-reflective properties of moth eyes are already being studied by other scientists, but more for the application of solar power to stop sunlight reflecting off solar cells. Professor Wu thought that this idea could also help with regards to mobile phone screens.
Professor Wu said that “Our nature-inspired film is also scratch resistant and self-cleaning, which would protect touch screens from dust and fingerprints."
Most phones contain sensors which detect bright light and then adjusts your screen brightness to help with the readability of the screen. However, this doesn’t always solve the problem and also drains your phone’s battery. Other ways of overcoming this problem haven’t really taken off and have been hard to develop. "Although it is known that moth-eye structures can reduce surface reflection, it is relatively difficult to fabricate an antireflection film with this nanostructure that is large enough to use on a mobile phone or tablet," said Guanjan Tan, one of the authors of the paper.
To create the film, the researchers came up with a new manufacturing process which used self-assembling nanospheres to create a template with very small, uniform dimples. The template can then be used to create the special moth-eye-like nanostructures on a thin film. Once the scientists had created an optimised film they tested it using industry-standard tests in flexibility, anti-scratch and self-cleaning capabilities.
Jun-Haw Lee of National Taiwan University, a key member of the research team said, "Our film provides an efficient and low-cost method to reduce the surface reflection and improve the sunlight readability of mobile devices." The next step for the researchers is to improve the films long-term durability to be used on touchscreen phones.
If all this wasn’t good, it’s about to get GREAT. The film could also be used on flexible screens that fold like books and are expected to hit the market next year. I don’t know about you but I will certainly be keeping my eye out for that.
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