Inspiration can strike anywhere—including the coffee table. Just ask java-obsessed Ivan Vakarelski, who discovered tomorrow's TV screens in those annoying rings that currently make my coffee table look like the surface of the moon.
This isn't to say Starbucks is going to start churning out overpriced TVs tomorrow alongside their overpriced Caffè machiatos.
Instead, let's focus on the transparent conductive coatings that currently reside on today's LCD TV screens. Still awake? Good. As New Scientist explains, this coating forms an electrode on the screen surface. In plasmas, the coating serves as a shield that prevents electromagnetic fields from straying away from the TV and into your dog's sleeping head, or something. Anyway, creating this coating is expensive and time-consuming, kind of like what it takes to make a really nice camera lens.
Enter the coffee stain and Mr. Ivan here. When coffee spills, the liquid begins to evaporate, and that process pushes the remaining coffee towards the edge of the spill (hence, the circular stain). Inspired by this process, Vakarelski and company created a conductive coating for TV screens that mimics the coffee stain's behavior. And the whole thing involves gold particles and nanotechnology (doesn't everything?).
The benefit to you, I and Joe Consumer is a more conductive, cheaper, and easier to produce LCD television set, as Vakarelski plans to increase the size of his coffee stains—er, "gold nanonets"— by a factor of ten (big screen!). Scalability isn't an issue either, as it would be for more traditional TV tech, so expect this stuff to start invading boob tubes sooner, rather than later. Oh, and we'll have even more nanotech in our daily lives. Triple Word Score. [New Scientist]