Digital screens made from concrete could mean displays are integrated into the sides of buildings, and make advertising billboards resistant to vandalism, according to Bo Jacobsen, the chief executive of Dupont Lightstone, the driving force behind the EU-funded DIGISTONE project. The project is displaying its first prototype at the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) in Copenhagen from 21 to 26 June.
How can a display be made of concrete, how does it work?
‘In principle it works as if it were a lot of cables going through the concrete, but I can’t tell you too much because we are just applying for a patent for this technology at the moment. However, in principle you have a very precisely aligned number of dots sitting in a very precise pattern, so whatever image you have on the back of the concrete screen appears on the surface.’
So you project an image and it in effect passes through the concrete?
‘Yes, the distance between the pixels, as we call them, is about 1.5 millimetres from centre to centre, so there’s not much space for concrete. The pixels are very thin, if the light is not going through you cannot see them, it looks like normal concrete.’
What resolution of image can you produce?
‘The viewing distance would be about 1.5 metres; from that distance you would be able to see texture, fine detail and so on. This is why we can actually put this up in a pedestrian zone where you cannot erect LED screens today because they can be destroyed by people.’
It sounds like the possibilities are endless.
Dupont Lightstone Chief Executive Bo Jacobsen is also working on a transparent concrete wall.
‘The problem is there are so many ideas and you can go in this or that direction, but we have decided to focus on one application, which is replacing the rolling poster stands that you have all over Brussels or France or Italy. They are changed every two weeks, so you have a lorry driver going to one of these stands, opening it, cleaning it and then putting new posters in. Instead of that, you could put up this concrete screen and operate it from an office because it works digitally.’
Who would buy a concrete display screen?
‘We expect that the big outdoor advertising companies would be the ones with the main interest at first, they’re looking for a medium like this – vandal-proof and sophisticated. We have a target in our budget that we should be no more than 30 % more expensive than conventional LED screens. One of the main points of the project is to reach this requirement.’
How close are you to that goal?
‘We have adopted a way of manufacturing the light guides that is quite inexpensive. Theoretically it is a scalable way of producing them.’
How common could these screens become?
‘We think they will be used in urban zones. If you take Hong Kong, for instance, if you walk around there you will see screens and advertisements all over the place. It’s not very beautiful. I think that architects would love to integrate the screens into the buildings instead of having all these screens just placed on the surface. I think it could become very common.
‘There are many more applications, like the new BRIGHTWALL project that we are starting up right now using an insulated concrete wall where the light passes through from outside to inside.’
Do you mean a transparent wall?
‘Yes, with the possibility of dimming the light to almost zero. If you put up a wall in a house in the south of Europe where the sun is very hot, of course you should be able to shut it out. And that is more or less the same light guide technology that we are using in DIGISTONE.’
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