The thing about science is for every truly useful innovation, there are a couple hundred things where people are just screwing around. That’s the only explanation we can come up with for this JOLED display, which is a deeply perplexing creation from researchers at the Universities of Sussex and Bristol in the U.K.
You’re probably familiar with LED displays, which use individual light emitting diodes to make images and text in a sort of mosaic pattern. LEDs are super common in stuff like road signs and inexpensive displays. The J in JOLED comes from “Janus,” the Roman god of transitions traditionally depicted with two faces. Each “pixel” in the display is actually a tiny polystyrene ball with a white side and a black side.
The machine uses ultrasound waves from a pair of speakers to hold the balls aloft and in position – right now, it’s a small matrix of 6×7, but it’s possible that the display could be sized up. A coating of titanium dioxide gives each ball a small electrostatic charge, allowing users to flip them from one side to the other. Modulating the sound waves also lets scientists change the position of the balls in three-dimensional space.
It’s not the most practical display technique in the world, but it’s certainly cool. We’re already thinking of cool ways it could be used.
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