Aspiring paperboys might want to consider another line of work. New, flexible displays from Philips Research Laboratories could make getting a daily newspaper as simple as unrolling a sheet of electronic "paper" and downloading the day's news from your cell phone.
Philips' prototype grayscale displays measure about 5 inches diagonally. They are 300 µm thick and can be repeatedly rolled up into a tube with a 4-cm diameter without damaging the display.
Researcher Gerwin H. Gelinck at Philips' lab in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, says the displays offer contrast similar to that of magazines. The electronics also have the potential to operate at video speed. Gelinck presented the work last week at an American Chemical Society ProSpectives conference in Miami; a report also appears in Nature Materials [3, 106 (2004)].
In addition to bringing to life the sci-fi vision of animated newspapers updated in real time, the devices also represent a step forward in the fabrication of electronic devices based on organic thin-film transistors (TFTs).
Philips scientists make the displays by gluing organic TFTs, grown on a polyimide plastic sheet, to a layer of flexible plastic embedded with "electronic ink" pixels. Growing the TFTs on plastic using a solution-based, low-temperature technique relies on readily available production processes and helps to cut costs. The researchers can use the same process to incorporate some of the external circuitry that drives the displays. Gelinck says with nearly 80,000 TFTs, these are the largest organic-based displays to date.
Although Philips has ambitious plans to bring the technology to market by 2006, Gelinck says a more immediate goal is to slim down the displays and make them amenable to being rolled up and stored in a container the size of a pen.