No More Glare

Wednesday, March 01, 2000

Drivers heading home into a setting sun face a dilemma. Sunglasses aren't dark enough to blot out solar glare, but anything darker renders other objects invisible. Iam-Choon Khoo, an electrical engineer at Pennsylvania State University, found a solution that emulates the displays used in laptop computers. These displays contain liquid crystals that change orientation, going from transparent to opaque when hit with an electric charge. Khoo modified some crystals with a dye so that they adjust in milliseconds to absorb bright incoming glare but do not block any low-level light. In another crystal he created, the even more brilliant pulse of a laser sets off an electrical reaction, tuning out the flash instantly. Unfortunately, Khoo's crystals are too expensive to use in auto windshields, but he expects they will turn up in goggles for jet pilots. They may even save satellites from terrorist attacks. "All the satellites we have up in the sky are susceptible to crazy people shooting lasers to blind them," says Khoo.

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