Edgewood Chemical Biological Center
Aberdeen, MD

The U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) has partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (MIT-ISN) and the Harvard University Department of Physics to develop a transparent display technology. Through ECBC’s In-House Laboratory Independent Research program, the teams have explored how particles scatter and absorb light efficiently.

As the team researched the use of nanoparticles in obscurants, which block a warfighter’s visibility over several bands of light, Marin Soljacic, a physics professor at MIT and leader of the team, had the idea of putting the technology to use in a different setting.

“The work on nanoparticles in the obscurants project is closely related to the development of this transparent display technology,” said Brendan DeLacy, an ECBC researcher in the Toxicology and Obscurants Division. “In our obscurants project, MIT provides computational models that predict the optimum size and shape of nanoparticles that are required to absorb and scatter light. ECBC is responsible for creating the particles that are predicted by those models.”

Typically, when an image is projected onto a transparent material such as glass, it simply goes through the glass and the image cannot be viewed. By coating the glass with a polymer containing silver nanoparticles with the appropriate size, however, an image can be reflected back and viewed as it if were on a screen. Additionally, the transparency of the glass is still retained. Advantages of this technology also include a wide viewing angle and the ability to scale the materials onto large display areas.

Each of the silver nanoparticles used in the technology is designed to scatter or reflect one color while rejecting the rest. Currently, a silver particle is used for imaging blue light. In order to simultaneously scatter red, green, and blue light, DeLacy said, researchers have one of two options: They can use three different nanoparticles, or they can create a clever particle with the correct properties that can display all three of the colors.

“The best part about this technology is how inexpensive it is. It costs much less than the other transparent display technologies, and it can be coated onto virtually any material that is transparent,” DeLacy said.

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