Whether they're on smartphone displays or TV screens, reflections can be a nuisance. US Department of Energy scientists working at Brookhaven National Laboratory, however, have reportedly found a way of almost eliminating them. It involves treating regular glass surfaces by etching tiny nanoscale cones into them.

Reflections occur whenever light encounters an abrupt change in refractive index – that's the degree to which a ray of light bends as it goes from one material to another, such as moving from air to water.

By etching the glass' surface into "a forest of nanoscale cone-shaped structures with sharp tips," the change of refractive index for light passing from the air into that glass is made much more gradual than it would be otherwise. Reflections are thus reduced by so much that the glass is claimed to be rendered almost invisible, across the entire visible and near-infrared spectrum and from a wide range of viewing angles.

Along with its use on electronic devices such as smartphones, the technology could also make solar cells more efficient, as more light would go into them instead of being reflected off.

In a lab test, the researchers compared the performance of one solar cell without a cover, one with a conventional glass cover, and one with a cover made from the nanotextured glass. The cell with the treated glass produced as much electricity as the uncovered cell, while the one covered with regular glass produced less.

The scientists are now looking towards commercializing the technology. A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Applied Physics Letters.