Flexible displays come into viewBy Kimberly Patch, Technology Research News
Scientists at Philips Research have taken the first steps toward making active matrix computer screens both cheaper and more flexible.
The researchers have incorporated semiconductors that are made of flexible polymer instead of silicon into a computer screen. Active matrix computer screens have high resolutions because each pixel, or dot of color, is controlled by its own semiconductor, or switch. Polymer-based switches are a major step toward producing flexible screens.
The researchers have produced a prototype display that contains 4096 polymer-based semiconductors deposited on a glass screen.
The next step is combining the polymer-based switches with a plastic display, said Dago de Leeuw, project leader of polymer electronics at Philips Research. The researchers are also working toward enlarging the display beyond its current 4096, or 64-by-64, pixels.
The advantages of using plastic semiconductors for displays, as well as other electronics, are both flexibility and cheaper manufacturing methods, de Leeuw said.
Polymers are easier and cheaper to work with than silicon, said de Leeuw. "Polymer [can] be processed more easily -- clean-room conditions do not have to be so strict, and [fewer] process steps are needed," he said.
Although working circuits made with polymer semiconductors are still novel, it is clear that organic semiconductors will be "increasingly important -- both because the science is proving to be very interesting and also because the technology [has] the potential to be widely used," said Richard Friend, a physics professor at the University of Cambridge, England.
Friend added that there's a lot of research to go before polymer-based components like semiconductors reach their true potential. For example the Philips circuit still requires "a lot of conventional lithography, so the actual process for manufacture is not very different from inorganic semiconductor methods," said Friend. "The virtues of organic semiconductors [will only be realized] when all the process steps dispense with traditional semiconductor technology,” he said
It will take one to two years to produce a flexible prototype display, three to five years before polymer-based components in general will be ready to use in commercial products, and five to 10 years before a flexible screen that incorporates plastic semiconductors is likely to be ready for production, said de Leeuw.
Timeline: 3-5 years, 5-10 years
TRN Categories: Semiconductors and Materials
Story Type: News
Related Elements: Photo 1, Photo 2
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