World's Smallest Projector Has Big Ambitions

Scientists at Germany’s Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering have created the World’s smallest video projector, at a mere 6 millimeters thick. The tiny size is the work of some creative engineers who discarded the traditional single-lens structure of a projector, which can only give off a weak projection unless the lens is wider (to allow more light through), and thicker (to better focus the light).

But instead, the pico projector combines 45 red, green, or blue microlenses--each with a miniature liquid crystal display to project 200 by 200 pixels of light from behind it. These 45 lenses work in tandem to create an image ten times brighter than would be possible on a (lesser) device of a similar size.

The mini LCDs required some ingenuity to engineer as well. In order to make them more compact, the LCD would have to be sandwiched behind a transparent material with a goldilocks melting point- not too high that the LCD components are ruined in the molding process- and not too low that the transparent material melts off in the heat of the projection light. So scientists at the also-German Institute for

Silicate Research developed a “hybrid organic-inorganic material” just for this purpose.

Since this system is small enough to fit into a smartphone, maybe before long we’ll be able to have mini movie screenings on the bus. Down in front!

[via MIT Technology Review / Photo: RVWithTito on Flickr; used under Creative Commons]

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