05 November 2012

Rollable, foldable electronic devices on the way?

Electronic devices that can be rolled up and kept in your pocket are one step closer to reality thanks to researchers at the University of Cincinnati.

The research experimentally verifies that a screen of paper thin plastic, which the team refers to as 'electrofluidic imaging film', actually works. This porous film is coated with a thin layer of reflective electrodes and spacers that are subjected to fluid mechanics in order to electrically transport the coloured ink and clear oil fluids that comprise the consumer content of electronic devices.

"This is the first of any type of electrowetting display that can be made as a simple film that you laminate onto a sheet of controlling electronics," said doctoral student Matthew Hagedon. "Our proof of concept breakthrough takes us one step closer to brighter, colour video ePaper and the Holy Grail of rollable/foldable displays."

The paper thin plastic screen is also said to be the first fluidic display that has no pixel borders. These are essentially 'dead areas' that dull any display of information.

"With a single, new technology, we have simplified manufacturability and improved screen brightness," said Jason Heikenfeld, associate professor of electronic and computing systems.

According to the researchers, the first generation of foldable devices will most likely be monochrome, with magazine quality colour coming within 10 to 20 years. The devices will require low power to operate and will charge via sunlight or ambient room light, while using wireless communication and being 'tough' enough to be left out in the rain or washed.

Simon Fogg

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