Flexible fibres to create bendable 3D displays

Tiny fibres which project varying amounts of light could be used to create flexible 3D displays, according to researchers at MIT.

3D TV technology might be generating a collective shrug among the public, despite continuing to take more of the LCD market, but flexible technology offers an innovative way to view 3D images.

That is because a team at MIT has created an ingenious 400 nanometre fibre that can send different light information to a viewer’s eye, in a similar manner to the varying images transmitted as part of a stereoscopic 3D image.

A hollow fibre is layered with alternating layers of materials with different optical properties, creating a mirror surrounding a drop of fluid in the centre.  When the fluid is charged with energy it is bounced around the mirrored interior of the fibre, and emits as light radiated from the core as a 360 degree laser beam.

The core is surrounded by four channels filed with liquid crystals which can change the brightness emitted from the centre.  These crystals can be activated separately to give control over what is emitted and in which direction. Adding a number of liquid crystal channels is very scalable, so information can be sent in a variety of ways.  It is also possible to produce long lengths of the fibres, up to kilometres, so we hope this means it could be woven into 3D jumpers at some point in the future.

With only one pixel being transited from each fibre, there are problems about how viable a working display would be. The team reckons that by getting the fluid droplet at the centre to move fast enough, it could fool a viewer’s eye into believing it is more than just one coloured point.

Even if this doesn’t work, there are possibilities to use the technology in medical applications, such as irradiating diseased tissue, as it could be threaded into narrow openings.