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Corkscrew shaped light could improve screens and fibre optics

14 August 2013

Next generation screens could slash energy use in TVs, mobiles and tablet PCs following new research on molecules that emit and detect twisted light.

Brightly lit displays are a big drain on the energy supplies of mobile devices. Current technologies, such as backlit LCD screens, produce text and images by streaming white light through a series of polarising and colour filters, a process that typically wastes over 75 percent of the light.

Now, scientists at Imperial College London (chemist Dr Matthew Fuchter and physicist Dr Alasdair Campbell) have shown that molecules shaped like twisted corkscrews can be made to emit twisted 'circularly polarised' light, which is needed to create these next generation screens.

The next step is to fine-tune the molecules to emit red, green and blue light to make brightly coloured images without the energy wasting filters.

This technique could also be used to make low-energy 3D displays. Polarised light that twists in opposite directions could be used to generate two different images on the same screen. When viewed through polarised glasses, these images could be used to create a sense of depth similar to that seen in current 3D films at the cinema.

The researchers are also working to understand the fundamental science that links the shape of molecules and the twisted light. In a research paper, they show how twisted molecules can also be used to detect twisted light.

Transmitting data using circularly polarised light instead of ordinary light could double the capacity of fibre optics cables that carry internet and telephone signals around the world, as well as improving the security of the messages.

With further work, the scientists hope this technology will lead to the development of ultra-fast 'quantum' computers that process data using polarised light.

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