A technology known as 'quantum dots' allows electrons to be trapped into structures similar to atoms, but much larger, and with adjustable properties. When an electrical current is passed through them, they can emit a fluorescent glow, but with careful control over the shape and number of electrons applied to the dots, everything from magnetism and conductivity to transparency and colour could be switched instantly. This material and similar technologies come under the label 'programmable matter'. Today, there are medical applications as a bright organic tracer, but in the future a reinforced quantum dot weave could be grown from crystals in a chemical vat and used as a programmable construction material. In theory, devices like display screens and solar panels could be created with nothing more than a quantum dot matrix and some precise computer control.
Game and Story Use
- In a futuristic (or even fantasy) setting, objects and even buildings made from quantum dots (or in-world equivalents) would make a surreal backdrop.
- There is some potential for manipulation and abuse for the technology, if a character gained access to the control systems.
- A sudden bright reflective or fluorescent screen could cover an escape in the resulting confusion and reduce visibility.
- Alternatively, the windows could be 'turned off' and the walls covered with a configuration that absorbs all light.
- Transparency on demand could make life difficult for anyone trying to hide behind something made from programmable matter.
- Tunable lasers are mentioned as a potential application.