back to article Boffin builds better display from... a cuttlefish

Cuttlefish have inspired boffins from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to develop a screen that uses less than one-hundredth the power of an LCD TV. The mollusc’s ability to change its skin colour extremely quickly prompted Edwin Thomas, an MIT professor, to create a prototype screen that displays images by …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    "a few volts of electricity"

    That's just lazy journalistic non-science. I assure you that just "a few volts of electricity" can melt a spanner that's dropped across the contacts of a car battery, drawing significantly more power than you could ever hope to deliver via a standard mains plug (albeit for a "short" period *cough*).

  2. Chippy-Minton
    Dead Vulture


    As a result, Thomas’ screen only uses a few volts of electricity

    - would that be Watts then?

  3. Richard


    I think you mean Cephalopoda.

  4. Richard


    You're right, a Cephalopoda is a kind of mollusc.

    Petard, mine, I'm hoisted.

  5. Lionel Baden

    self assembluy


    i i guess i can say im buying them for the kids !!

    i would have so much fun with that !!

    Car customization, better than that silly oled car

  6. Roni Leben
    Paris Hilton

    voltage != power

    "As a result, Thomas’ screen only uses a few volts of electricity."

    Last time I checked, power was voltage times current, so low voltage alone does not equate to low power.

    Most computer parts "only use a few volts of electricity", but at quite high current rates. Modern CPUs "running at only about 1V core voltage" can draw more than 100A and do use a lot of power.

    Paris, coz she knows her "tension", "flow" and "power".

  7. TeeCee Gold badge

    Bloody Hell!

    Now I'll not only have to stop the sodding cat sharpening his claws on the sofa, I'll have to find a way to stop the budgie sharpening his bloody beak on the telly too.

  8. Jason Bloomberg

    Something fishy here

    So he's re-invented the reflective LCD albeit using a different techonolgy. They too use "just a few volts" [sic] as witnessed by how long our wrist watches last on a small battery.

  9. Dan
    Thumb Up


    Not only does he come up with a new display technology for which the concept is so simple that everyone else overlooked it, but just to rub it in, he wants to enable kids to make them in Chemistry lessons!

    Cover my car & house in this stuff for predator-like camoflage...

  10. Anonymous Coward

    As well as adding my voice

    to the outraged masses about the whole voltage thing, I'd also like to ask:

    Didn't reflective LCDs do this ages ago?

    Actually, "a few volts of electricity" CAN be correct, though it is slightly lazy (probably should have stopped with "a few volts". It could take a few gigaamps, but still just be "a few volts of electricity". And if the wattage or current draw of the device is unknown, it's even more appropriate.

  11. Kev - LG

    Science wins again

    This is why science is so excellent - taking cues from nature, and building things better.

  12. Matt

    No more adverts

    A screen with an extremely limited viewing area that can only be used in well-lit conditions is being foisted as a good idea for bill boards? Those same billboards that can be seen from all angles, and even in poor lighting conditions? Might be more useful on mobile phones where low voltage is a requirement and viewing angle is very easily adjusted or even VR headsets where light weight is a benefit and the viewing angle can be fixed.

  13. D@v3

    panel 2

  14. Anonymous Coward

    When will they ever learn ...

    Voltage by itself is meaningless. Power consumed is derived from Ohm's law:

    P = {V x I} / R or P = {V² / R}

    Like has been previously mentioned (Roni Leben), some modern CPU's consume only 1 Volt but can draw tens or even hundreds of Amps.

    This would be more interesting if the display only sipped a fraction of an amp at those "only uses a few volts of electricity".

    Of course, scientific rigour these days ... I'll get my coat.

  15. Bronek Kozicki
    Thumb Down

    this is not exactly new technology

    check Mirasol, e.g. here .

  16. Juillen
    Paris Hilton

    As a regular scuba diver..

    I thought that they'd found a way to play video from my dive computer!

    The light show from hanging round a flamboyant cuttlefish is quite stunning, but the title implied there could be so much more..

    Paris, because, well, it'd make the deco stops more interesting..

  17. Ian Michael Gumby
    Thumb Up

    A tad cynic are we this morning?


    Rather than beat up a poor reporter over some technical goofs, lets look at the amazing thing...

    "But Stephen Foulger, a professor at Clemson University in North America, told website Discovery that such screens have a limited viewing angle and can only be used in a well lit areas.

    So you may never see a TV based on this technology, but it has the potential to be used in electronic ink-based gadgets and on billboards. Thomas said he also hopes to build a self-assembly kit for use by children in chemistry classes. ®


    Imagine a kindle 10.x. (That's roughly the number of iterations that will be released by the time this gets to market.)

    You could have something roughly the thickness of a clipboard , roughly 1/4" thick with a 1 " thick bar at the top to hold batteries and the cpu guts along with additional memory cards etc ...

    It could have a ruby crystal face so that it would be scratch resistant and in a solid (metal/carbon fiber) shell.

    As a personal reader, it wouldn't need to be viewed from multiple angles and it wouldn't have to have more than 16 bit color depth if not less. With the fact that at this time, HP's memistor will be released so you could theoretically download a series of newspaper subscriptions, and books.

    There are other uses for this technology too, so don't just laugh it out. It took 10-15 years before the digital ink idea became practical so lets see what happens.

  18. John Smith Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Not a reflective LCD.

    The clue is in the multiple layers business. LCD's only need 1 layer but the light *needs* to be polarised. This is the *real* PITA of the technology. All large area light sources, fluorescent, electroluminescent etc produce un-polarised light so lose a load (30% from memory) of light emitted. A large area flat souce whose light output was polarised by *default* rather than filtered, would be impressive.

    This thing appears to be a real time variable Fabry-Perot filter. Typically passive versions (multi-layer mirrors) are swivelled to change the lengths of the light paths between the layers to permit transmission or reflection. This switches path length *without* physical movement and *without* needing polarisation.

    IIRC these filters are normally used for narrow band filtering so its Achilles heel may be its optical bandwidth, along with viewing angle. The bandwidth is not necessarily a killer for a display (EG Green is 550nm +/- 10nm instead of a broad hump) but a narrow viewing angle, given the large progress in this area, would probably kill it as a display. But for printing, projection or some kind of optical image processing so what.

  19. Mike Kamermans

    and just to drive the point home, amazing science

    Citing the Discovery article:

    "The screen is so easy to assemble, said Thomas, that he that is working with a Boston area science teacher to produce a version cheap enough, safe enough and simple enough for middle and high school students to build in chemistry class."

    I am going to completely and utterly ignore all the "ohnoz, volts instead of watts!" people and instead be amazed at display technology that school children will be able to make as a not-even-science-project. Trivialisation? Please, yes, as soon as humanly possible, I want reflective full spectrum colour displays to be something anyone can whip up over a couple of hours instead of having to trust the big tech players to make what they think we will buy by making it just far away enough from what we actually want =(

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Roll up, roll up!

    Get your invisible clothes and tanks here :)

  21. Camilla Smythe

    @Greg Fleming

    "Voltage by itself is meaningless. Power consumed is derived from Ohm's law:

    P = {V x I} / R or P = {V² / R}"

    Ignoring the niceties of the possible complex nature of the waveforms involved you might find that.....


    P = V x I

    Ohms law

    V = I x R


    P = I x R x I

    P = I^2.R


    V = I x R


    I = V/R


    P = (V x V)/R

    P = V^2/R

    "Of course, scientific rigour these days ... I'll get my coat"

    That will be the one with the crib sheet still in the pocket then?

  22. Paul
    Thumb Up


    LMAO I cant get the image outta my head!

    (Also a bird owner, but a cockatoo is just plain destructive, and likes to corner the dog too ;-)

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