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Physicists announce inexpensive transparent projection screens

Inexpensive transparent projection screens that can be any size and shape are physically possible and will probably be available in the near future according to research published in the Jan. 21, 2014, issue of Nature Communications by a team of researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and the United States Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center.

Demonstration of the new transparent display: photographs showing a sample transparent projection screen (left) and a regular piece of glass (right). Three cups are placed behind both screens to visually compare the transparency.
Demonstration of the new transparent display: photographs showing a sample transparent projection screen (left) and a regular piece of glass (right). Three cups are placed behind both screens to visually compare the transparency.
Image courtesy of Chia Wei Hsu and Bo Zhen

The development was dependent on the nature of light and the discovery that nanoparticles can be created that interact with a single frequency of light and display a single color. The nanoparticles were embedded in a transparent material. Laser light was used to produce the proper frequency of light that excited the nanoparticles and caused the nanoparticles to produce a specific color. Embedding a large number of nanoparticles that emit a huge array of color allows any transparent material to become a projection screen.

The laboratory prototype developed by the researchers was 10 inches square and two hundredths of an inch thick. The manipulation of nanoparticles that produce red, green, and blue light was all that was necessary to produce a working model.

The technology is applicable for any surface that is normally covered by a window or any transparent material.

The low cost of glass and the increasingly low cost of nanoparticles that produce color are projected to make this new display technology available for use with almost any transparent surface within the next year.