See Inside November 2006

Muscling Up Color

Polymer splits light for true color in displays

Artificial muscles--plastics that expand and relax when exposed to electric fields--could help produce truly lifelike colors in future television and computer screens. Tiny "tunable prisms" based on these materials could form the pixels of improved video displays within a decade.

Existing screens, such as those based on TV tubes, flat-screen LCDs or plasma displays, cannot faithfully reproduce the full range of colors that humans can see. Each pixel in those technologies consists of three light-emitting elements, one for each of the fundamental colors: red, green and blue. The displays combine the colors at various brightness levels to generate other colors but can achieve only a limited range.

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