January 6, 2016

Aluminum nanoparticles could improve electronic displays

A set of vivid red, green and blue pixels based on aluminum nanostructures
are shown in a liquid crystal display (left: schematic, right: digital photograph).
Credit: American Chemical Society

(January 6, 2016)  Whether showing off family photos on smartphones or watching TV shows on laptops, many people look at liquid crystal displays (LCDs) every day. LCDs are continually being improved, but almost all currently use color technology that fades over time. Now, a team reports in ACS Nano that using aluminum nanostructures could provide a vivid, low-cost alternative for producing digital color.

Conventional color technology used in displays is susceptible to photobleaching, or fading. So researchers have looked toward aluminum nanoparticles that can display colors in electronics, thanks to a property called “plasmon resonance.” To create plasmonic color devices, researchers group nanostructures into arrays called pixels. Color is generated by scattering light onto the pixels, with different arrangements creating different colors. Aluminum plasmonic pixels are advantageous for use in electronic displays because they are inexpensive and can be made in an ultrasmall size, which can increase image resolution. But these pixels create muted and dull colors. In a recent publication, Stephan Link and colleagues developed a method that allows the red end of the color spectrum to be more vibrant. Now, the same team reports another approach that makes the blue end of the spectrum much more brilliant, too.

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