1. ITV Report

Scientists reveal 'nano-pixel' images smaller than the width of a human hair

The technique could one day lead to flexible, ultra-thin displays. Credit: University of Oxford/PA Wire

The pictures look like the could hang in an art gallery, but each of these images is smaller than the width of a single human hair.

An image of a butterfly that is smaller than the width of a human hair. Credit: University of Oxford/PA Wire

Scientists have created them using a new imaging method which could one day pave the way for ultra-thin flexible displays that use very little energy.

A tiny electrical current was used to draw the pictures within an 'optical sandwich' containing a 'phase-changing' material that can switch from a flowing to a crystalline state.

An image of a flea 'drawn' by electric current on a tiny scale. Credit: University of Oxford/PA Wire

The system relies on nano-pixels just 300 nanometres across that can be electrically turned on or off to create the mosaic of coloured dots that make up the images.

Professor Harish Bhaskaran, who led the Oxford University team, said: "Because the layers that make up our devices can be deposited as thin films they can be incorporated into very thin flexible materials.

"We already demonstrated that the technique works on flexible Mylar sheets around 200 nanometres thick. This makes them potentially useful for 'smart' glasses, foldable screens, windshield displays, and even synthetic retinas that mimic the abilities of photoreceptor cells in the human eye."

Dr Peiman Hosseini, from Oxford University's Department of Materials, said: "We can tune our prototype 'pixels' to create any colour we want - including the primary colours needed for a display.

"One of the advantages of our design is that, unlike most conventional LCD screens, there would be no need to constantly refresh all pixels. You would only have to refresh those pixels that actually change. This means that any display based on this technology would have extremely low energy consumption."

Image of a Fiat Cinquecento that is smaller than the width of a human hair. Credit: University of Oxford/PA Wire

The Oxford scientists have filed a patent on the invention with the help of the university's technology commercialisation company, Isis Innovation.