New Nanorod LED Technology Responds to Light Input

February 15,2017

Researchers from Dow Electronic Materials and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated new nanorod LED arrays that can both emit and detect light. This technology opens new possibilities for interacting with displays, such as controlling a screen with touch-free gestures or writing with light.

"We primarily interface with our electronic devices through their displays, and a display's appeal resides in the user's experience of viewing and manipulating information," said Peter Trefonas, Ph.D., Corporate Fellow in Dow Electronic Materials. "The bidirectional capability of these new LED materials could enable devices to respond intelligently to external stimuli in new ways."

The study was reported in the February 10 edition of the journal Science. The authors discussed several ways that this technology could be used to enable new types of displays in the future. For example, a demonstration was done in the lab that showed pixels responding to an approaching finger. This capability could enable interactive displays that respond to touch-free gestures. Another demo showed pixels turning on and off in response to a laser stylus, which could become the basis of smart whiteboards, tablets or other devices in which users can use light to write or draw.

Lab demonstrations show the nanorod LED technology is capable of responding to input from a light stylus, which could allow users to write or draw with light. Photo provided courtesy of the University of Illinois/Moonsub Shim.

The technology could even be used to design LED displays that interact with one another. For example, two screens could be set up across from each other, and the light output from one could be used to control the second.

This lab demonstration shows an example of how the nanorod LED technology could be used for data communication from one screen to another. Here, the data output from one source is received by the second, which responds by emitting light in the same pattern. Photo provided courtesy of the University of Illinois/Moonsub Shim.

"These LEDs are the beginning of enabling displays to do something completely different, moving well beyond just displaying information to be much more interactive devices," said Moonsub Shim, Ph.D., Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois and leader of the study. "That can become the basis for new and interesting designs for a lot of electronics."

This study was supported by collaborative research effort between The Dow Chemical Company and the University of Illinois with the aim of advancing technologies important to industry. The National Science Foundation also supported this work.

To learn more about the nanorod LED technology and possible future applications, see this announcement from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.