Development of Ultrafast Color-Switching, Structural Colored Hydrogel —Proposal for a New Color Display Method

Research Press Release | September 12, 2014

  • A pattern diagram of a color display with a structural colored gel
    A pattern diagram of a color display with a structural colored gel
  • “LSW” letters (left) and a picture pattern (right) are displayed
    “LSW” letters (left) and a picture pattern (right) are displayed
Press Release
Key Points ・A gel which switches color (structural color) due to sample deformation has been developed.

・Wide color range from red to blue was produced by simply pressing the gel at the low pressure of 30 gf/cm2.

・High-speed response at 1/1000 seconds, equal to current high-end liquid crystal displays, was achieved.

・Application in energy-saving next-generation color displays and high-speed response, pressure imaging sensors is expected.

Overview Graduate student Youfeng Yue and other members of Dr. Gong’s group from the Faculty of Advanced Life Science, Graduate School of Hokkaido University, developed an ultrafast color-switching hydrogel via dynamic stimulation. Hydrogel is a jelly- or konnyaku-like soft material that contains much water inside. The currently developed gel has the capacity of producing a full range of colors from red to blue according to deformation rates. It has a high-speed responsiveness of 1 millisecond, and a high spatial resolution of 0.01 mm (the width of a human hair). Expected applications include use in new style non-backlit color displays and sub-water functioning high-speed responding pressure imaging sensors.

It does not contain any pigments. Instead, lipid bilayer membranes similar to cellular membranes are layered within the gel at regular intervals of about 100 nm. This regularly layered structure serves as a reflector of light at specific wavelengths, producing colors according to inter-layer distance, and uses the same principle as that seen for body surfaces of jewel beetles and tropical fish. This principle is called structural color. Since a gel is a very soft material, its interlayer distance changes when it is deformed which results in a change of the color. While other color-switching gels have used this principle before, their response time was extremely slow, and application for displays screens for videos and movies was not appropriate.

In this study, lipid bilayer membranes in the gel were finely divided, which makes possible an ultra high-speed response equal to that of high-end liquid crystal displays.


Jian Ping Gong, Professor, Faculty of Advanced Life Science, Hokkaido University

TEL & FAX: +81-11-706-2774

Laboratory of Soft and Wet Matter



Publications Nature Communications (2014.8)