Research highlight

Materials science: Octopus-inspired flexible displays

Nature Communications

September 17, 2014

A method for controlling the pattern on flexible displays, inspired by the skin of cephalopods, is reported online this week in Nature Communications.

Cephalopods, such as squid and octopus, have pigment containing cells in their skin called chromoatophores. They can change the colour of their skin by contracting and expanding muscles to allow different amounts of light to escape from these cells, allowing them to rapidly switch between patterns.

Xuanhe Zhao and colleagues replicate this effect on a polymer surface by using an electric field to control the tension in the polymer. Dyes embedded in the polymer respond to this tension, allowing previously defined patterns to be displayed. The authors show that the produced patterns, such as letters and shapes, can be displayed and erased numerous times. These flexible displays may be a future alternative to traditional flat screens.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms5899

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