Could new light-carrying fiber technology be the future of 3D display panels? A team of researchers associated with MIT's Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE) believe so.
A paper published recently on the Nature Photonics website suggests that a new material, woven from specialist flexible fibers, could be used within future generations of 3D displays.
Each individual fiber is no thicker than a human hair, at 400 micrometers across. Whereas most light-emitting technology maintains a standard light intensity from any angle (for example, light bulbs), these fibers can vary light intensity and exposure in different directions.
The ore of the fiber is hollow. Cushioning the core, multiple layers of material with different optical properties assume the role of a mirror. The inside can then act as a conduit where drops of fluid can be inserted and activated. Once 'activated' by laser technology, the fluid emits light. This then bounces back and forth between the mirror-acting layers, creating a 360 degree laser beam emitted from the fiber's core.
Surrounding the light-emitting core are four channels filled with liquid crystals, which vary the brightness of the generated light. Each individual channel is controlled by two electrodes running parallel to it.
As an advance in display technology, the researchers acknowledge the current drawback that each fiber can only produce one image pixel. However,they are investigating the idea that one pixel -- one drop of fluid -- could be moved back and forth to trick a viewer in to seeing a line rather than a single, colored point. Once the fibers are woven together, then this could be the first step in constructing a full display panel.
As light can be projected in to different areas without restriction, sensory output and information can be varied depending on a viewer's eyes. Not only this, but the fiber could potentially be implemented within medical devices.
As an example, the fiber could be threaded into narrow areas to eradicate disease tissues while leaving healthy areas untouched. In the emerging field of photodynamic therapy, in which a photosensitizer, a light source and tissue oxygen are used to target and treat targeted locations. Photodynamic therapy is currently used to help treat acne, cancer, and some forms of degenerative disease.
"The coolest thing about this work, really, is the way it's made," says Marko Loncar, an associate professor at Harvard University. "The technology that they used to do it, basically, they can make kilometers of these things. It’s remarkable."
Loncar adds, “And they envision this being used for surgeries and things like that, where it would be really hard to use any other laser approach.”
Seven researchers from MIT including including Yoel Fink, a professor of materials science and electrical engineering and the director of RLE John Joannopoulo, created the material with funding from the U.S. Army and the National Science Foundation.