Caesar Receives Research Prize

Section model of the film composite
and touch panel; © Caesar

The micro-robotic group at Caesar has been awarded one of three research prizes by ONCE in Madrid. With this 60,000€ prize, the Spanish foundation acknowledges the invention of a new mechanism for graphical tactile displays for the blind by the researchers Dr. Bernhard Winzek, Dr. Sam Schmitz and Roman Vitushinsky, thus promoting the technical implementation of this principle.

The displays use metallic films featuring various shape memory alloys which are produced layer by layer on silicon wafers using thin film technology. Display pixels are generated when the metallic film adjusts its curvature partially, similarly to bimetal snap plates for temperature switches. The movement of the films is then transferred to the touch panel via plastic pins und thus can be detected by the user.

The combination of shape memory alloys enables switching the film to stable positions using different heat pulses without a permanent heat supply. Thus, only the switching operation requires electric current, whereas maintaining the status does not.

The benefits vis-à-vis traditional Braille displays are the display's compact structure featuring thin film technology, resulting in a cost reduction per pixel, the scientists say. Using conventional Braille-cell technology, costs for the graphic display of information emerging from the high number of pixels required are beyond the price range of the blind. With these innovative displays scientists make a significant contribution to the freedom in daily life of the handicapped.

The Bonn-based international research centre Caesar commenced research in 1999. With over 220 employees, interdisciplinary teams conduct research in the areas of biotechnology, nanotechnology and medical technology.; Source: Center of Advanced European Studies and Research (Caesar)