Harnessing Ambient Light: Qualcomm’s Newest Display Technology

June 27, 2015 by Tim Youngblood

Qualcomm MEMS's new technology harnesses the power of ambient light.

Qualcomm MEMS's new technology harnesses the power of ambient light.

Navigating a display is a constant battle between brightness and power conservation: reading a book on an iPad outside on a sunny day is a sure way to kill your battery. Unfortunately, while displays have gotten much clearer and more powerful in the last five years, not much has been done to combat their energy consumption. However, Qualcomm Inc.'s newest announcement is set to change all that: researchers at Qualcomm MEMS Technologies, Inc. have innovated display technology that doesn't fight the light surrounding the display: the display reflects it. According to Qualcomm's site, "Microscopic mirrors in each pixel change the size of an air gap inside the display. Depending on the size of the gap, white light is reflected back as red, green, or blue."


Qualcomm's ambient light technology


“We have developed an entirely new way of creating a color display,” said John Hong, a researcher with Qualcomm MEMS Technologies, Inc. “The incredibly efficient display is able to create a rich palette of colors using only ambient light for viewing, much like the way we would read and view printed material.”

Displays have famously accounted for the majority of battery drainage in devices: Qualcomm MEMS's technology would mean a tremendous energy savings not only for cellphones and wearables, but televisions and jumbotrons and any other traditional displays. The new displays--depending on usage--report ten times the power savings of traditional backlighted displays. Less need for a clunky battery would allow room for other components in mobile technologies.

Additionally, reflecting ambient light not only allows for energy savings, but provides an accurate representation of the color spectrum using interferometric absorption, meaning that the display isn't limited to the old RGB schematics but can recreate any color in the world.

The new technology is thin, efficient, and gorgeous. Finally, a display is here that will work beautifully in any condition, bright or dark, and won't need a massive battery to do it. 

SOURCE: Qualcomm