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Visible and infrared images of the device in fully discharged and charged states

A display screen in its uncharged (top left) and charged (top right) state in visible light. The screen reflects one range of infrared wavelengths when uncharged (bottom left) and another range when charged (bottom right). Credit: M. S. Ergoktas et al./Nature Photon.

Optics and photonics

One screen, three images — some invisible in ordinary light

A graphene-based device can display several images simultaneously using a range of wavelengths.

Although your mobile phone might have a high-quality colour screen, it can’t display pictures in both the visible spectrum and other wavelengths of light at the same time. Now, researchers have engineered a device that can show images in wavelengths ranging from visible to microwave simultaneously.

A team led by Coskun Kocabas at the University of Manchester, UK, made a display by layering sheets of graphene — a conductive, carbon-based film — over a foil sheet that acts a source of lithium ions. When electricity flows through the material, lithium ions trickle from the foil into the graphene. As the graphene incorporates more lithium, the display reflects a broader range of wavelengths.

The researchers can target the flow of electricity to individual units in the display. This allows the device to generate three images at the same time, although only one can be seen with the naked eye. When the device is observed with infrared light, a second image appears alongside the first; a third image can be seen only by observing the display with wavelengths that lie between far infrared and microwave.

The authors suggest that after further development, the device could be used for message encryption and camouflage coating.

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Climate change

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