Scientists from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands have discovered what could one day be a new type of display technology bubbles of graphene that change color as they expand and contract.

Scientists say that these ‘mechanical pixels’ could eventually make screens that are more flexible, durable and energy efficient than current LED technology. They caution, though, that the work Is very much in its infancy; whether these graphene bubbles can make displays of equivalent quality, or be scaled up for mass production, remains to be seen.

Diagram showing how layers of graphene are stretched over silicon oxide cavities.
A technical diagram showing how layers of graphene are stretched over silicon oxide cavities.

The discovery was made by researchers working with panels of silicon oxide covered with graphene — sheets of pure carbon just a single atom thick. The silicon is pockmarked with holes about ten times the width of a human hair, leaving the graphene stretched across these tiny cavities like a drum. When working with these samples, scientists noticed that the bubbles of graphene changed color depending on the pressure inside the cavities. When the pressure shifts, the bubbles became concave or convex, changing how light refracted through them and creating different colors.

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