Nanotechnology Turns Glass Surfaces into Digital Displays

What started out as a University of Waterloo fourth-year nanotechnology engineering design project turned into an award-winning startup poised to disrupt the advertising display industry. Lumotune Inc. has a big vision to put pixels everywhere by transforming any surface into a digital display.

Founded by three nanotechnology engineers – Hooman Safaee, Matin Esfahani and Shafi Siddiqi – Lumotune first developed NanoShutters, a flexible thin film applied to glass that can be turned from transparent to opaque, just by changing the setting on a handheld app.

Lumotune’s technology quickly evolved into something bigger. Lumotune is now focused on developing transparent electronic displays that can be put on any surfaces and transform them into integrated signage, multifunction smart glass/windows, large scale displays on buildings, residential, privacy spaces, and architectural displays. The applications are infinite.

“The Lumotune display is, essentially, a flexible three-layered sheet. The outer layers are a transparent plastic film that will adhere to just about any surface. The middle layer in this techno sandwich is a nano-material whose transparency depends on the voltage applied to it,” explains Esfahani.

The nanomaterial is connected to a control system with tiny wires plugged into the computer. The control system transmits voltages to areas or pixels on the display to change their transparency, thus forming images. Lumotune created a prototype with 25 pixels during their fourth-year nanotechnology project. Over the past year, they have improved its technology to 3000 pixels with image retention capability, and well working towards their target of 1 million pixels.

Their technology uses .002 kilowatts of electricity per hour per square meter, which is significantly lower than conventional LCD displays.

Lumotune is based out of the VeloCity Foundry in Kitchener, Ontario, University of Waterloo’s incubator space for hardware and life sciences startups. The University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Science; Faculty of Engineering; and Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology have also been instrumental in the early stages of their development by providing them with the space, resources and mentorship. The team graduated from the University of Toronto Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) and recently joined the Communitech Venture Services program.