Philips unveils ultra-thin, flexible display

Philips Electronics has revealed new paper-like computer displays made almost entirely of plastic, reports United Press International.

The flexible displays could have a vast impact both economically and environmentally. They not only could replace bulky computer monitors and rigid flat screens, but also supplant paper in books, newspapers and elsewhere in print.

Dozens of industrial companies are pursuing next-generation flexible displays including Lucent, DuPont, 3M, Dow Chemical, Infineon Technologies, and Matsushita Electric, said materials chemist Zhenan Bao at Lucent Technologies in Murray Hill, N.J.

Philips describes its prototype flexible display in the Jan. 25 online edition of the British journal Nature Materials. It is made from a number of sandwiched films in 1.37-inch-by-1.37-inch squares containing 1,888 transistors made of organic compounds.

“Before that, the record was 864 transistors, which was demonstrated in 2000 by us at Bell Laboratories,” Bao said, describing her earlier work on flexible displays. “Having that many organic transistors working together is quite impressive.”

Resting on top of this 25-micron-thick layer of transistors—roughly one-quarter the width of a human hair—is a 200-micron-wide layer of electronic ink capsules. The whole can be laminated in protective plastic.

“To imagine the way the ink works, imagine the layer blown up to the size of a football field,” McCreary said. “It’s completely covered with transparent beach balls filled with a clear fluid like water. Inside each are suspended black and white particles, say maybe the size of ping-pong balls.”

McCreary continued with the ping-pong-ball analogy: “Now imagine each of the ping-pong balls has a different charge depending on color -- say, positive for white,” he said. “And then imagine you can create an electric field under each beach ball. Depending on the charge of each electric field, you could either pull the black ones down and the white ones up, or pull the white ones down and the black ones up.”

At the same time, each transistor can make each microcapsule to which it is linked appear either white or black.

Because the display is made almost entirely of plastic, it is quite flexible. Each prototype can get bent into a tube nearly an inch wide, about that used in rolls of paper towels. The completed circuitry can operate at speeds of up to 5 kilohertz, or 10 times faster than demonstrated previously using organic electronics, and sufficient to run video.

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