Patterned by Nature is a curved display surface measuring 90 feet long installed at the North Carolina Museum of the Natural Sciences. It shows abstract representations of various scientific phenomena such as combustion and fluid flow.
The sculpture is comprised of 3,600 individual liquid crystal tiles. Together, the tiles act as a huge display that shows visualizations of different patterns in nature. The technology behind this display is in some ways similar to that found in an old digital watch or a modern computer screen. The difference is that while a typical computer screen has an embedded backlight, this display uses the sun as its backlight. As a result, the entire 900 square feet of display area consumes less than 75 watts of power.
To make this display possible, we needed to design a custom LCD controller board that would allow us to transmit power and packets of data along four steel cables that hold up each section of the sculpture. Each of these control boards has a unique digital ID, and it listens for commands from a host computer to know what patterns to draw on the 20 LCD tiles it controls. The host computer sends out more than 100,000 commands a second to these control boards in order to produce the visual effects seen on the sculpture. 180 LCD control boards are embedded within the sculpture.