Light manipulating structure could drastically reduce smartphone energy use

The days of searching high and low for a plug socket so you can charge your smartphone may soon be over thanks to advancements made by an Oxford University spin-out.

Bodle Technologies has received a “significant” amount of funding from the Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI) fund to develop a new material that will drastically reduce the amount of energy required to power any device that uses a screen.

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With smartphones, wearables and similar consumer gadgets, more than 90 per cent of the battery power is used to light the display. However, the new material could mean that users only have to charge their handsets once a week. Its ultra-thin structures are able to manipulate light using electrical, optical or mechanical means, creating a vivid display that can be viewed even in direct sunlight.

The material is based on the same technology used for rewritable DVDs. As Bodle readily admits, the materials are “well-known” and already have “commercial applications.” However, the way that the Oxford University spin-out is using them could have uses outside of smartphones and wearables.

“We can create an entire new market,” explains Dr Hosseini, founder of Bodle Technologies. “You have to charge smartwatches every night, which is slowing adoption. But if you had a smartwatch or smart glass that didn’t need much power, you could recharge it just once a week.”

The materials could also be used to develop smart windows that work more effectively than double glazing to regulate temperatures. It’s even been suggested that it could develop a new type of hologram for use on official documents and bank cards that cannot be forged.

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Although Bodle Technologies is not ready to release the product just yet, the research firm is already in talks with some of the world’s largest consumer electronics manufacturers.