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Saving energy with colour

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Johnson Chuang, 778.997.7676, jca54@sfu.ca
Carol Thorbes, PAMR, 778.782.3035, cthorbes@sfu.ca

July 10, 2009

Three Simon Fraser University computing scientists have developed colour-screen technology that promises to slash the power usage of battery-driven mobile devices by up to 40 per cent.

Johnson Chuang, Torsten Möller and Daniel Weiskopf are the first scientists worldwide to develop a set of energy-saving screen colours for devices (such as cell phones) that use organic light-emitting diode screens (OLEDs).

OLEDs are an emerging display technology poised to replace LCDs. Their multiple lights, spread out over the back of the screen, enable many possible applications that are unachievable with traditional LCDs’ single back light system.

For the first time, Chuang, Möller and Weiskopf are designing custom energy aware colours to be used for rendering images on OLEDs. Each pixel that displays the image is made from a tiny spot of polymer that emits coloured light when supplied with power. Each light uses different amounts of energy, depending on the colour being displayed. At the same brightness, yellow, for example, uses less energy than magenta.

Their OLED system could be not just an energy-saver but a life-saver if you're depending on a cell phone to get you back to civilization from the boonies, notes Chuang. “Say you’re running low on battery and you want to use Google maps to get home. Switching to an energy-aware colour set could make your battery last longer.”

Chuang, the lead researcher on this project, is an SFU master’s of science student, set to graduate in October. He says his group’s use of energy aware colours could spark the discovery of more creative and inventive ways to use them in mobile graphics applications. Chuang plans to pursue a career in colour science that spans research and industry.

The Taiwanese native credits his supervisors, Möller and Weiskopf, with guiding his research and graduate studies. Their work, entitled Energy Aware Color Sets, was presented at Eurographics 2009 in Munich, Germany, and was published in the conference’s journal, Computer Graphics Forum.

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