back to article Researchers solve screen glare nightmare with 'moth-eye' antireflective film

A new anti-glare film could help us see our phones a little bit better on a bright day. "Ambient light is everywhere," says Jiun-Haw Lee, an electrical engineer at National Taiwan University in Taipei. Natural light lowers the contrast of display screens, making them appear much darker. That's because when light from the sun …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "would cause dirt and grease from fingers to accumulate much more quickly than normal"

    So, you gain 3% contrast and 30% more smudges.

    Not sure that's a win.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: "would cause dirt and grease from fingers to accumulate much more quickly than normal"

      Depends upon the environment but smudges can be wiped off. I certainly know what I'd prefer when trying to use a device in bright sunlight.

    2. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: "would cause dirt and grease from fingers to accumulate much more quickly than normal"

      phone sanitisers ==> B Ark==>we are all dead :( (please fill in the gaps yourselves)

  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Ambient light is everywhere,"

    "The bleedin' obvious"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Except in dark places.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        And the very depths of Whitehall.

        1. Pangasinan Philippines

          Bude Light

          This was used in parliament buildings.

          Bright idea!

          https://www.visitbude.info/fun-facts/fun-facts-the-bude-light/

    2. Patrick R
      Holmes

      Re: "Ambient light is everywhere,"

      "...You're holding it wrong."

    3. Captain DaFt

      Yes, Jiun-Haw Lee has revealed that he is Captain Obvious!

      He will soon find himself at the mercy of The Obfuscation Overlord!

  3. frank ly

    "It's also coated with a little bit of built-in water resistance."

    Just a splash of water resistance?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Just a splash of water resistance?

      Enough to stop the glass from getting wet. Now that would be a disaster.

  4. MacroRodent Silver badge

    First world?

    What do you mean "first world problem"? Mobile phones are possibly even more important in the "third world", where they are used for a lot of things where first worlders might use a PC or tablet. Besides, in a sunny climate glare is an even worse problem.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not new

    Philips TVs had moth-eye coatings a few years ago. They worked well but had to come with special cloth and cleaning fluid to keep the screen clean without ruining the coating, which made things a bit of a faff

    1. Kristian Walsh

      Re: Not new

      Looked amazing though - I saw one in the basement bit of Selfridges in London, which is lit up like a Christmas tree, and there was no visible reflection on the screen. Very expensive, though, and a little too fragile for the general market - if you didn't use the special cleaning cloth when wiping the screen, you could end up polishing the screen and reintroducing reflections.

  6. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

    Not suitable for touchscreen devices

    Even a trace of grease from fingerprints is going to be enough to kill the anti reflection property. This would only be suitable for a NON-touchscreen device such as a wall mounted TV.

  7. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Ideal application for car speedos and other instruments.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Not the way some people drive. "It's broken. *jab* I'm not doing seventy. *jab*"

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      The windscreen should remove most of the glare in the first place.

      1. Swarthy Silver badge

        Is it sturdy enough

        For the rear windscreen? I would love to see some AR coating on those, the reflections from them can be blinding.

  8. Nimby
    Trollface

    the nanostructure would cause dirt and grease from fingers to accumulate much more quickly

    So it prevents ambient glare by making the entire screen unusable? Problem solved!

    Cheaper solution? A can of matte black spray paint. :P

    (I can see where such a technology might be useful for a lens, maybe even a TV or monitor, but not for a touch screen.)

  9. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Sunlight

    is gods way of saying put the phone down and get to the pub.

    1. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Sunlight

      In my local there is zero phone signal, hooray!

  10. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Fairly obvious solutions to the dirt clogging issue

    Mount the film with the patterned face to the screen. Or

    Fill holes with a clear plastic of suitable refractive index that it fills the holes but leaves the optical properties intact. Plastic hardens in holes to leave smooth flat surface.

    "Moth eye" coating concepts have been around for decades. I think the first idea for their use was a single use CD ROM scheme, but I don't know if it went anywhere.

    1. kryptonaut

      Re: Fairly obvious solutions to the dirt clogging issue

      "Fill holes with a clear plastic of suitable refractive index that it fills the holes but leaves the optical properties intact. Plastic hardens in holes to leave smooth flat surface."

      That thought struck me too, but then I realised that you'd end up with a smooth shiny surface facing the viewer, and you'd be back where you started. Only way it'd work would be if the filler plastic had the same refractive index as air, in which case you could just use that to make the screen and it would be reflection-free (and effectively invisible).

  11. pleb

    Confused?

    " Moth eyes are shaped in such a way that they scatter light instead of reflecting it back – researchers have previously experimented with using them to optimise the absorption properties of solar cells, for example"

    'Scattering instead of reflecting'? A tad confused? Scattering certainly won't help solar panels either.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Confused?

      Actually, they'd help solar panels. See, if the light gets reflected, it goes UP and AWAY from the business part of the solar panels. Light that gets scattered has a better chance of going DOWN to where you want it.

      PS. To whomever suggested mounting the moth-eye film away from fingers, that won't work. For it to work, it has to FACE the light in order to properly refract it. As noted, it creates a dilemma. Smooth surfaces are more oleophobic but more reflective. Matte-like surfaces (the moth-eye film can be considered this) reflect less light but DUE to their rough surface are more oleophilic. I think the previous attempts at anti-glare try to find a happy medium: oleophobically smooth yet able to prevent reflections to a good extent.

  12. Daedalus Silver badge

    They're missing the point

    The producers of laptops, TV's, and phones are proud of how shiny their screens are. It must be a major selling point, otherwise why would the anti-reflective screens we used to get have disappeared? Laptops need shiny screens match the sexy low-profile silvery utterly bloody useless keyboards they have. Flat screens have to be reflective enough to shave in - save on those mirrors you only use once a day!

    All hail our sales droid masters!

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: They're missing the point

      Yes, having also been around when the HSE regulations on screen glare at computer workstations were introduced, I often wonder how certain manufactures seem to have completely ignored them in recent years. IIRC I first noticed this when Apple went LCD flatscreen with glass covering. Many have done the same thing since then, producing "hard glass" screens. The reflection issues are lessened by the screen being flat in the first place, but the problem is still there.

  13. tomban
    Thumb Up

    Neat idea!

    2 x 2cm, that'll be perfect for my digital watch!

  14. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    But ...

    anyone who moth traps will tell you that a lot of moth eyes reflect brightly ... They have a compound structure that channels the light striking each "optical window" to the optic receptor and I can't really see where the light scattering off the surface comes into it or would be evolutionarily advantageous. The only differences between the compound eye and a conventional single aperture variety is that light striking the eye is absorbed differently (there's no lens surfaces for instance) and. due to the roughly spherical surface positioned on the side of the head, light rays striking outside a defined and limited angle would not produce the expected reflection back to the observer from the retina. Perhaps it's the internal absorption structure they are mimicking, not the external surface?

  15. johnck

    I don't see this as being of any use for anything we look at, its an interesting scientific study, and may have use in solar panels and other areas though. Humans need about a 10% change to notice something has happened and this produces about a 3% change in contrast, we wont see the difference between this and the usual anti reflective stuff

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      10% versus WHAT, though? From 1.0% to 0.2% can be considered an 80% and by your standard quite noticeable.

    2. IT Poser

      Humans need about a 10% change to notice something

      When exactly did humans get so bad at noticing difference. When I were a lad we could tell the difference at 2%, if we didn't expect it. If a person knew that there was a difference that amount was less.

      Methinks that 10% number is marketing gobbledygook.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Refraction instead of cancellation?

    The refracted light must go somewhere. So the phone's glow is more annoying to everyone else in the vicinity?

  17. bobkn

    Scattter? not so much.

    Moth eye antireflection coatings use very small structures (smaller than the wavelength of light). They don't scatter light in some benign direction; they don't reflect it at all (ideally).

    Moth's eyes don't do this. The name comes from the appearance of the structures as seen with a scanning electron microscope; they resemble the compound eyes of moths. I believe that moth's eyes are highly reflective, but as retro-reflectors: they send the light back to the source.

    That type of AR coating has been around for a long time. The earliest AR coatings, developed in the 19th century, involved "staining" glass chemically. It doesn't give a regular structure, and it isn't simply a surface pattern, but the effect is similar.

    The advance here is coming up with a plastic film that could be applied to a screen, rather than patterning the glass directly (expensive).

    And, yes, you wouldn't want to touch such an AR coating. Fragile, and difficult to clean without damage.

  18. DougS Silver badge

    How durable would it be?

    With fingers swiping and pressing it all the time, those nanostructures might wear off pretty quickly. Worse yet, if they pick up fingerprints, you'll be cleaning it more often - and regardless of whatever instructions they might provide, the typical cleaning method will be wiping your thumb hard around the screen with the bottom of your shirt in between :)

  19. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    So no screen glare, but at the cost of feminine shrieking every time the phone is used.

    Personally I find that feminine shrieking is very useful in helping cope with the skin-crawling brought on by the thought of a phone with insect eyes.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Am I the only one

    Contact lens with this stuff = cloaking device for black cats.

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