As tech designers of our beloved must-haves continue to whittle down their designs into meditative models of minimalism (here's looking at you Apple), eventually all our digital displays will attain the ultimate act of enlightenment and be made of nothing but air and water.
That may be a stretch, but some researchers at Aalto University in Finland might beg to differ. Led by Robin Ras, in conjunction with the Nokia Research Center and University of Cambridge, the group has discovered an innovative way to write and display information using only air and water. Not only that, they've drawn inspiration from the water-repelling flower that's an emblem of enlightenment and non-attachment: the Sacred Lotus.
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What researchers did was immerse a dual-structured, superhydrophobic surface under water. That surface featured structures in two size scales: microposts approximately 0.0004 inches in size and tiny nanofilaments that were then grown onto the microposts.
On this two-layered surface a layer of air is able to exist in two different shapes that correspond to the two size scales. Researchers used a jet of water to switch between dry and wet states by exploiting the pressure of the water.
"The minimal energy needed to switch between the states means the system is bistable, which is the essential property of memory devices," Ras said in an Aalto Univrsity press release."
The coolest part of this, though? This process allowed Ras and company to draw shapes on the underwater surface. Think of it as an underwater Etch A Sketch.
"Combined with the optical effect, the surface is also a bistable reflective display," added Ras.
While you probably won't wake up tomorrow and find a water-and-air LCD flat screen for sale at Best Buy, this technology is making a splash, small as it may be.
"This result represents the first step in making non-wettable surfaces a platform for storing or even processing information," said Academy of Finland professor Olli Ikkala.