See Through Screen MIT
January 22, 2014

MIT Working On Heads-Up See-Through Screen

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

Researchers at MIT have designed a new type of see-through screen that could be used as a heads-up data display system.

The new system, reported in the journal Nature Communications, adds wide angle viewing, simplicity and low cost to current transparent display systems. Some heads-up display systems can already be seen in cars, where the bottom of the windshield is used to display information like miles-per-hour.

Heads-up display systems use a mirror or beam-splitter to project an image directly into the user’s eyes, which makes it appear that the display is hovering in space. These systems are limited in their angel of view, and the eyes must be in exactly the right position in order to see the image at all. However, the new system appears on the glass and can be seen from a wide array of angles.

“The glass will look almost perfectly transparent, because most light is not of that precise wavelength,” said Marin Soljačić, a professor at MIT who worked on the project.

The scattering allows the image to be seen similarly to how smoke in the air can reveal a laser beam passing through it. The team used silver nanoparticles to produce a blue image, but they believe that eventually it will be possible to create full-color display images using the same technique.

The nanoparticles are embedded in the transparent material, and these particles can be turned to scatter only certain wavelengths while letting all the rest pass through it. This means that the glass will remain transparent enough to see colors and shapes through it, while a single-color display is clearly visible on the glass.

The researchers demonstrated their system by projecting a blue image in front of a scene containing cups of several colors, all of which can clearly be seen through the projected image.

[ Watch the Video: Transparent Displays at MIT ]

Soljačić said his team’s system is just a proof-of-concept, and a lot of work still remains to help optimize the performance of the system. However, the initial results are promising and have given the team encouragement that this concept could be brought to life.

“This is a very clever idea using the spectrally selective scattering properties of nanoparticles to create a transparent display,” Shanhui Fan, a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University who was not involved in this work, said in a statement. “I think it is a beautiful demonstration.”