European LUMENTILE project develops luminous surfaces that change color for diverse decorative, informative or safety applications.
A team of European scientists have developed a range of digital, ceramic tiles that can change color, pattern, or play videos from a connected smart phone or tablet, effectively turning a bedroom wall or ceiling into a giant cinema screen.
Based on photonics technology, the LUMENTILE (Luminous Electronic Tile) project combines the simplicity of a plain ceramic tile with sophisticated touch screen technology to create an interactive light source.
The tile consists of a combination of ceramic, glass and organic electronics, the luminous tile includes structural materials, solid-state light sources and electronics, which can be controlled from a central computer, a smart phone or tablet.
The developers say this is the first time electronics and photonics have been embedded into ceramics or glass for a large-scale application. The launch announcement states, “With the ability to play videos or display images, the tiles allow the user to turn their walls into a large ‘cinema’ screen, where each A4-sized unit (297 x 210mm) acts as a pixel of the overall display.
Project coordinator, Professor Guido Giuliani of the University of Pavia explained, “This is not just a digital panel to replace an animated poster like you see on a metro network, but a whole new way of life. You are instantly in control of your own environment: if you don’t like your bathroom in blue, now you can change it to green with one tap. If you like flowery wallpaper, ducks or Christmas trees, that’s up to you.”
Each A4 Lumentile has its own internal power source, and the tiles can be tailored entirely to the customer’s needs: such as completely or partially covering the walls of a room, a floor, or a ceiling. So long as the pieces tessellate, any coverage pattern is possible, such as hexagonal or triangular ceramic tiles.
The tiles, which can be switched off so that a basic silver, black or white colour can be the default setting, are equipped with an on board micro-controller, and operate on a lexical network invisible to the user.
The surface of each tile has uniform and efficient illumination, achieved by LUMENTILE’s smart light management system, a new approach based on a light guiding slab and spatially selective light extraction.
With the ability to configure the tiles to become ‘smart floor panels’ that recognise when an elderly user is no longer standing or has perhaps fallen, or in security situations where a floor will be sensitive to intruders, the tiles have the capacity to act as a ‘smart’ floor.
“When arranged into a Smart Floor setting,” said Giuliani, “LUMENTILE has the capability to form dynamic paths. The main applications of the LUMENTILE product are in public spaces, for example by creating luminous, interactive floors that create automatic guiding paths. In shopping centres or airports for example, if a customer needs directing to a store or terminal, they can follow an illuminated walkway.”
With its durable nature, the luminous ceramic tile could be also used externally: placing it on the outside of a building creates the obvious potential for advertising or changing the colour or appearance. However the tiles can be flat or curved to fit around columns or uneven contours.
Military vehicles, for example, fitted with such an external skin would be capable of variable camouflage at the flick of a switch to match changing terrains, such as woodland, desert or waterland.
“It may sound like the stuff of James Bond but external tiles would create a ‘chameleonic skin’, or instant camouflage. Although we are a long way off this yet, this would allow a car or building to blend completely into its surroundings, and hence ‘disappear’,” added Giuliani.
The LUMENTILE project received a grant of € 2.47 million from Horizon 2020 via the Photonics Public Private Partnership. Coordinated in Italy by the Universita Degli Studi di Pavia, Italy, LUMENTILE involves partners from Finland, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, including Teknologian Tutkimuskeskus VTT (Finland), Eclexys (Switzerland), Julight and Keraplan (Italy), Studio Itinerante Arquitectur, and Knowledge Innovation Market (Spain).
The following linked videos showcase the LUMENTILE development: Lumentile Project.