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Research team develops ultra-thin soap bubble screen

Japanese and American researchers may have just given us a glimpse into the future of ultra-thin displays after a trio of scientists developed the technology and substances necessary to beam images onto the surface of a soapy bubble.

The display uses ultrasonic sound waves to manipulate the properties of the substance – a complex colloidal mixture in which soap is the main ingredient – into flat and even 3D images, and a patent has now been submitted for this 'membrane screen'.

"The combination of ultrasonic waves and ultra-thin membranes makes more realistic, distinctive, and vivid imageries on screen. This system contributes to a new path for display engineering with sharp imageries, transparency, BRDF [bidirectional reflectance distribution function], and flexibility," lead researcher Yoichi Ochiai of the University of Tokyo wrote on his blog.

The screen's colloid solution is considerably stronger than the soap film created by common washing up liquid, with some objects able to pass through it without causing a bursting effect.

"It is common knowledge that the surface of soap bubble is a micro membrane. It allows light to pass through and displays the colour on its structure. We developed an ultra thin and flexible BRDF using the mixture of two colloidal liquids," Ochiai added.

Further development will obviously be necessary before manufacturers integrate it into their products, but the transparent display demonstrated by Dr Ochiai and his colleagues (video below) is now the thinnest known, according to the international team.