The days of glimpsing the world through a tiny plastic porthole when you fly are soon to be a thing of the past; future aircrafts will offer a crystal clear panoramic view without any windows at all. At the UK based Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), scientists and engineers are developing ultra-flexible, high-definition display technologies that could line the interior walls of cabins and display live footage from external cameras.
As well as surrounding passengers with a panoramic view of the skies, this interactive ‘digital wallpaper’ will allow travellers to personalise their environment, providing options to adjust lighting or change the view. It could also be used as a multimedia device for in-flight entertainment. Using OLED (organic light emitting diode) technology, the thin, bendable and lightweight displays screens will blend with the fuselage and surfaces, such as seatbacks, optimising space and reducing the weight of the aircraft.
A view of the skies will not only offer a passenger experience that will transform your journey, the elimination of the windows will also reduce weight, as well as enhance the safety and strength of the fuselage. Weight is a constant issue on any aircraft with over 80% of the fully laden weight being the aircraft itself along with its fuel. For every 1% reduction in weight, the approximate fuel saving is 0.75%. If you save weight, you save fuel. And less fuel means less CO2 emissions into the atmosphere and lower operational cost. Windows currently require meticulous construction to ensure that their structure maintains cabin pressure and resists cracking at 35,000 feet.
Dr Simon Ogier, Research and Development Manager at CPI, said: “Our role is to turn innovative technology concepts such as OLED displays into manufactured products. Work has so far focused on the back layer and the flexibility and performance of Organic Thin Film Transistor arrays (OTFTs), which operate a screen’s individual pixels to form the picture.”
“Now we know we can tightly bend these parts and maintain function, the challenge is to combine this with an equally flexible front layer for a fully flexible, high performance display.”
In addition, OLED technology is not solely restricted to the aerospace sector but will also be used to create roll-up mobile phones or integrated into functional clothing. CPI is using its capabilities and expertise to assist companies in the development of novel lighting and displays ranging from signage and architectural features to medical devices.
Fully integrated OLED technology is still in development across the globe, but CPI has extensive experience in taking new technologies to market. Progress within the UK is promising, CPI are able to create flexible OLED lighting devices of varying thickness and colours, and have recently demonstrated at pilot production scale that such devices can be flexed to a radius of 1mm without a decrease in performance. A technology roadmap has been devised to take the technology to commercialisation for the aviation sector.
Now we know we can tightly bend [the OLED display screens] and maintain function, the challenge is to combine this with an equally flexible front layer for a fully flexible, high performance display.Dr Simon Ogier
Research and Development Manager, CPI