Why creepy moth eyes could advance the next generation of smartphones

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Jun 28, 2017, 2:34 PM EDT (Updated)

While it sounds like something Brundlefly would dream up to give you nightmares, nanoscale structures in a moth’s eyes could soon influence the next futuristic feature on your smartphone.

Because moths are nocturnal, their compound eyes have evolved to optimize night vision by reducing glare, which also prevents any potential gleaming that could attract bats and other predators in the moonlight. Their anti-reflective powers have been harnessed for a new development in smartphone technology inspired by the insect. Though moth-modified phones are still a twinkle in the tech industry’s eye, scientists are developing a new film to eliminate the glare on your display that bugs you when you’re trying to send a text or take a selfie.

Scientists from the optics and photonics research group at the University of Central Florida recently published a paper on their new smartphone-optimized anti-reflective film in the journal Optica. This material can even quadruple color contrast improvement on smartphone screens exposed to sunlight that would normally cause a killer glare. It doesn’t stop at your cell, either; the team developed a model that can be modified for use on everything from solar panels to highway billboards (how many times have you been almost blinded trying to read one?).


Insect inspiration could soon mean a glare-free smartphone screen. 

"We have also developed a simulation model that other people can use to optimize the nanoparticle's shape, depth [and] diameter, for the optimal anti-reflection," said team lead Shin-tson Wu.

Moth DNA isn’t the magic ingredient here. Researchers created the film by covering a surface with nanospheres of silicone oxide, then spinning it to separate the nanospheres, which travel further apart as speed increases. The moth-eye effect is achieved after the surface dries and is used to stamp the film with spherical dimples that mimic those compound orbs. The stamp is not reusable because of issues with the imprinting process, such as nanospheres falling off or sticking to the film, but researchers believe that developing the same kind of stamp with a mold that can be reused will really make production take flight.

Future modifications to the material will possibly increase flexibility for foldable displays and make it more resistant to the staining and scratches that similar technologies used on TV screens are subject to. Scientists just need to figure out how to do both. The more flexible the film is, the more prone it is to dents and water stains, and vice versa. Pros and cons will have to be analyzed depending on which application will need moth vision.

No moths were harmed by any of these experiments.

(via NBC Mach)