Researchers Master Precision Light Control for Vibrant Structural Coloration

Researchers at the Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute (KERI) have achieved a milestone in 3D printing technology, enabling precise control over light for advanced display applications. The team, led by Dr. Jaeyeon Pyo, has developed a nanoscale 3D printing technique that produces intricate diffraction gratings, paving the way for transparent displays, augmented reality (AR) devices, and more.

The inspiration for this innovation came from nature’s structural coloration phenomenon, seen in creatures like chameleons and peacocks. Microstructures within their skin or feathers diffract light at the wavelength level, resulting in vibrant colors without pigments. KERI’s diffraction grating functions similarly, precisely controlling structural color by manipulating light paths.

Researchers Master Precision Light Control for Vibrant Structural Coloration
Researchers from KERI. (Image Credit: Credit: Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute)

A critical achievement was the successful creation of nanowire diffraction gratings through a lateral printing technique. This approach, akin to sewing, allowed for the intricate bridge-shaped patterns needed to control light diffraction at an incredibly small scale—just 1/1000th the thickness of a human hair.

The implications for this technology are vast. Transparent displays, such as smart windows and heads-up displays in vehicles, stand to benefit from the diffraction grating’s transparency. AR devices can incorporate the technology as a key component. Moreover, the ability to emit different colors based on deformation opens doors for mechanical engineering and biomedical applications.

Controlling diffraction
Controlling diffraction with small scale gratings. (Image Credit: Credit: Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute)

Dr. Jaeyeon Pyo highlighted the technology’s revolutionary nature, allowing precise implementation of structural coloration without restrictions on material or shape. The research’s significance was recognized through its cover article publication in ACS Nano, a prestigious materials science journal.

KERI has already initiated patent applications for this innovative breakthrough and anticipates substantial interest from display-related industries. The achievement is expected to diversify display device shapes and overcome conventional limitations. KERI, a government-funded research institute, plans to promote technology transfer to interested companies, further propelling the evolution of display technology.

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You can read the research paper, titled “Three-Dimensional Printing of Structural Color Using a Femtoliter Meniscus” at the ACS Nano journal, at this link.

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