The Thermochromic Display You Didn’t Know You Needed

We love unique ways of displaying data here at Hackaday, and this ingenious thermochromic display created by [Moritz v. Sivers] more than fits the bill. Using sheets of color changing liquid crystals and careful temperature control of the plates they’re mounted on, he’s built a giant seven-segment display that can colorfully (albeit somewhat slowly) show the current temperature and humidity.

The sheets of temperature sensitive liquid crystals are a bit like flattened out Mood Rings; they starts out black, but as heat is applied, their color cycles through vibrant reds, greens, and blues. The sheets are perhaps best known as the sort of vaguely scientific toys you might see in a museum gift shop, but here [Moritz] has put their unique properties to practical use.

To achieve the effect, he first cut each segment out of copper. The crystal sheets were applied to the segments, thanks to their handy self-stick backing, and the excess was carefully trimmed away. Each segment was then mounted to a TES1-12704 Peltier module by way of thermally conductive epoxy. TB6612FNG motor controllers and a bevy of Arduino Nano’s are used to control the Peltier modules, raising and lowering their temperature as necessary to get the desired effect.

You can see the final result in the video after the break. It’s easily one of the most attractive variations on the classic seven-segment display we’ve ever seen. In fact, we’d go as far as to say it could pass for an art installation. The idea of a device that shows the current temperature by heating itself up certainly has a thoughtful aspect to it.

This actually isn’t the first display we’ve seen that utilized this concept, though it’s by far the largest. Back in 2014 we featured a small flexible display that used nichrome wires to “print” digits on a sheet of liquid crystals.

Continue reading “The Thermochromic Display You Didn’t Know You Needed”

How To Make A Custom LCD From Scratch

If you have ever wondered what it took to make your own custom graphic LCD from scratch, this video from [Applied Science] is worth a watch. It’s concise and to the point, while still telling you what you need to know should you be interested in rolling your own. There is also a related video which goes into much more detail about experimenting with LCD technology.

[Applied Science] used microscope slides and parts purchased online to make an LCD that displays a custom graphic when activated. The only step that home experimenters might have trouble following is coating the glass slides with a clear conductive layer, which in the video is done via a process called sputtering to deposit a thin film. You don’t need to do this yourself, though. Pre-coated glass is readily available online. (Search for Indium-Tin Oxide or ‘ITO’ coated glass.)

The LCD consists of a layer of liquid crystal suspended between two layers of conductive glass. An electrical field is used to change the orientation of crystals in the suspension, which modulate the light passing through them. Polarizing filters result in a sharp contrast and therefore a visible image. To show a particular shape, some of the conductive coating is removed from one of the layers in the shape of the desired image. The process [Applied Science] uses to do this is nearly identical to etching a custom PCB. Continue reading “How To Make A Custom LCD From Scratch”

Crafting A Liquid Crystal Display

Throughout the 1960s, the management at RCA thought LCD displays were too difficult to commercialize and sent their engineers and researchers involved in LCDs off into the hinterlands. After watching [Ben Krasnow]’s efforts to build a liquid crystal display, we can easily see why the suits thought what they did. It’s an amazing engineering feat.

Before building his own version of an LCD (seen above in action), he goes through the mechanics of how LCDs operate. Light enters the display, goes through a polarizer, and is twisted by a liquid crystal material. The first successful LCDs used two types of liquid crystals – chiral and nematic. By combining these two types of molecules in the right proportion, the display can ‘twist’ the polarized light exactly 90 degrees so it is blocked by the second piece of polarizing film in the display.

Besides getting the right crystals and engineering processes, another major hurdle for the development of LCDs displays is transparent electrically conductive traces. [Ben], along with every other LCD manufacturer, uses a thin layer of indium tin oxide, or ITO. By embedding these clear electrodes in the display, segments can be built up, like the seven segment displays of a calculator or a bunch of tiny dots as found in a TV or computer monitor.

In the end, [Ben] was able to build an extremely simple single-segment LCD display out of a pair of microscope slides. It does modulate light, just barely. With a lot of work it could be made in to a calculator type display but for now it’s an awesome demonstration of how LCDs actually work. Continue reading “Crafting A Liquid Crystal Display”