Iridescence in nature--on insects', butterflies' and birds' wings--depends not on brute-force backlights, but instead plays tricks with the reflected light to make it appear brighter. As researchers uncover how these natural systems work, engineers are harnessing that knowledge to build reflective displays that require almost no power but are as bright as backlit LCDs. Look for bright reflective displays by QualComm for cell phones by the end of 2010.
Iridescent insects, butterflies and birds have long puzzled scientists with their unique ability to reflect bright colors. Nature's trick is growing nanoscale structures with dimensions that filter light being reflected without dimming light the way conventional filters do. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta) said they have unearthed the secret of natural liquid crystals that reflect light as bright as a back-lit LCD. Separately, Qualcomm MEMS Technologies Inc. announced it is breaking ground on a manufacturing plant to fabricate its own reflective displays using methods similar to those recently discovered at Georgia Tech. Next, the researchers said they plan to characterize the shells of iridescent insects to create unique colors not seen elsewhere in nature.