Tiny tech behind next-level 'metasurface' flat screens

Flat screen televisions and electronic gadgets could become cheaper, thinner and more energy-efficient with tiny tech.

Researchers have created nanoparticles called "metasurfaces" that they say perform better than existing liquid crystal displays (LCDs) and light emitting diode displays (LEDs).

The technology developed by an international team from the Australian National University, UNSW Canberra and Nottingham Trent University in the UK could usher in the next generation of screens and electronic devices.

They say the metasurfaces are 100 times thinner than liquid crystal cells and offer ten-fold greater resolution.

Lead researcher Mohsen Rahmani says it's time for LCD and LED displays to be phased out, just as former tube TVs became defunct.

"Most importantly, our new technology can lead to a huge reduction of energy consumption - this is excellent news given the number of monitors and TV sets being used in households and businesses every single day," Professor Rahmani said.

Unlike liquid crystals, the metasurface pixels do not require polarised lights for functioning, which researchers say will halve screens' energy consumption.

Andrey Miroshnichenko, a team member from the UNSW Canberra, said the pixels are made of widely available silicon and offer a long life span.

The team hoped their development could generate a frontier technology in new flat displays with a global market value of about $117 billion, Professor Miroshnichenko said.

Khosro Zangeneh Kamali, a PhD scholar at ANU, said metasurfaces exhibit extraordinary optical behaviour.

"However, inventing an effective way to control them is still a subject of heavy research," he said.

"We have proposed electrically programmable silicon metasurfaces, which is a versatile platform for programmable metasurfaces."

The research has been published in the journal Light: Science and Applications.