Tablet with butterfly wings – video included

AUTHOR: Inavate

As the current set of eReaders such as Kindle and its peers settle in, developers are looking to improve with a further generation of products. The next generation will certainly include larger, colour screens and semi-conductor firm Qualcomm is tackling this with a Biomimetic display technology it calls Mirasol. Biomimetics is a branch of technology that mimics naturally occurring phenomena to solve problems.

In the case of the Mirasol display, Qualcomm is copying the way that colours manifest on the wings of butterflies. Other common examples of biomimicry include such things as Velcro and low friction materials.

Mirasol displays are interferometric modulator displays (IMODs), a type of microelectromechanical system (MEMS) that use a tiny moving reflective surface to change colour states. Each pixel in an IMOD is individually addressed, similar to the way an LCD works. The pixels in a Mirasol IMOD display mimic the tiny scales on a butterfly’s wings that make it appear to shimmer. In each IMOD pixel a miniscule interferometric cavity, made up of a reflective membrane and a thin-film stack, either reflects light or not depending on the state of the membrane. The air gap between the membrane and the film determines the colour of the pixel.

IMOD pixels require little power except when their state is being changed. This makes IMODs more energy efficient than LCD-type displays. Because IMODs are reflective displays, they actually become brighter when there is more ambient light. This makes them easier to see in direct sunlight or other bright conditions. E-ink technology is similarly reflective, which is why a Kindle screen can easily be read in sunlight, but not a laptop display. Another plus for the Mirasol technology is that it has a faster refresh rate than e-ink. Not only do static images appear more quickly, says Qulacomm, but Mirasol displays can also show video.

Qualcomm has already demonstrated at 5.7” version of its device, and says it is developing a 10” display at the moment. It expects that products using the technology will be shipping by the end of this year.

This video shows how the technology works:

And this is a demo of the product in action: