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.