Breakthrough could ‘drastically’ improve smartphone screen resolution

26 May 2017

Image: Ruslan Shevchenko/Shutterstock

A new breakthrough in electronics could make smartphone screen resolution ‘drastically’ better than anything else on the market today.

The latest flagship smartphones – such as the Samsung Galaxy S8 – boast some of the most impressive screen resolutions ever seen, but that could soon be about to change.

In a paper published to Nature Communications, a team from the University of Florida revealed a whole new model of screen design that leaves existing ones in their wake.

Future Human

To do this, Prof Debashis Chanda and physics doctoral student Daniel Franklin created a new surface tunable that allows a screen to change the colour of its subpixels.

A typical video screen contains thousands of pixels, each of which contain three different subpixels coloured red, green and blue (RGB).

“We can make a red subpixel go to blue, for instance,” Chanda said.

“In other displays, that is not possible because they need three static colour filters to show the full RGB colour. We don’t need that now – a single subpixel-less pixel can be tuned across a given colour gamut.”

By applying different voltages to each of these pixels, the underlying subpixel would be able to change colour, giving it a far greater range of resolution by a factor of three.

Eliminating the static subpixels allows a pixel’s size to be reduced, meaning more can be packed in for an even sharper resolution.

Easily integrated with modern tech

While smartphones would greatly benefit from this technology, the researchers suggest that it could also help overcome the issue of poor resolutions on augmented and virtual reality headsets.

This latest development was based on previous research by Chanda and Franklin, which revealed the world’s first proof-of-concept display utilising the plasmonic phenomenon.

They previously created an embossed nanostructure surface resembling an egg crate, covered with a skin of reflective aluminium, whose roughness was modified to allow a full range of colours to be achieved with a single nanostructure.

For the benefit of screen producers, this nanostructure can be easily integrated with existing display technology.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic