Mirasol Display from Qualcomm: It’s the Miracle of Nature
Ever been advised by someone not to stare at the screen of your laptop or phone for long? Or have you ever faced the ordeal of trying to comprehend what’s there on the screen while you are out in the Sun? Well, these are pretty common instances where one feels that there could’ve been better advances in display technology than just AMOLEDs and Super-AMOLEDs. Today, there is such a technology available that does not hurt your eyes and is as bright as any other ‘natural’ colour in daylight. That’s the miraculous Mirasol.
Mirasol is the latest display technology developed by the leading smartphone-chipset making company Qualcomm. It is, as they say, inspired by nature. Rather than shining a backlight on the screen and consuming precious power, Mirasol uses the ambient light to create colours. Something similar is done by butterflies and peacocks, and the field of study related to such a convergence of nature and technology is called Biomimicry. Thereby, not only does a Mirasol display reduce the power drain from your gadget’s battery, but also it is soft to your eyes and gives excellent readability under the Sun.
Mirasol displays work on IMOD Reflective Technology owned by Qualcomm MEMS Technologies Inc. IMOD stands for Interferometric Modulator which is a simple MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical-System) device. These kinds of systems have a moving mechanical component and an electrically excited component. The mechanical components are two plates: a reflective membrane and a thin film, with an air gap in between. Hence when light strikes their surfaces, the reflected light rays are off phase and acquire a particular colour. Both the plates are conducting, so when a small voltage is applied, they become a capacitor and get dragged towards each other. This reduces the air gap in between and changes the colour of reflected light. A zero air gap denotes black as all light is absorbed.
Hence, each pixel of the display consists of three such sets of plates placed alongside, giving out red, green and blue lights when illuminated. Colours are changed simply by varying the voltage across the plates. Since there is no backlight required, the voltage to be applied is miniscule, and what we are seeing are actually natural colours taken out of ambient light – Mirasol gives comfortable low power sunlight viewing with a vast array of shades that are impossible for any artificial display to mimic.
Owing to its features, Mirasol is emerging as the first choice for e-reader displays. Some of the recently released e-readers that sport this technology are KYOBO eReader, Hanvon C18, Bambook Sunflower and KOOBE eReader. The names are obviously new and the list misses the bigshots of the market like the Amazon Kindle. Nevertheless, a fitting debut has been made by this budding technology and the path forward seems promising.
Last month, however, Qualcomm decided to license this home-grown technology citing some strategy issues. Let’s just hope that Mirasol doesn’t die along as it changes ownership and enhance the displays of many gadgets to come.
Abhishek Mittal is an engineering student by profession and a creative writer by passion. Pursuing his B.E. in Electrical and Electronics from BITS Pilani Hyderabad, he is the Co-Editor of Gadgetronica and is deeply interested in the latest happenings of the gadget-world. Often targeted as an Apple fanboy, Abhishek closely follows the business strategies of all the tech-giants, and sometimes predict the future too!
20 August, 2012