German electronics giant Siemens has exhibited paper-thin flexible display screens at the Plastics Electronics trade show in Frankfurt. Although displays still need to be refined and costs would make them impractical for consumer products today, Siemens anticipates they’ll be available on the market by 2007.
The displays really aren’t the stuff of science fiction or Harry Potter novels. According to an article on PhysOrg.com, the displays operate using electrochromic materials which absorb different wavelengths of light when electrical voltages shift charges in their molecules. The electrochromic material holds a pattern of electrodes, while a layer of transparent plastic services as the other electrode and a transparent window. Currently, the displays are programmed using silicon switching elements, but Siemens’ goal is to get the manufacture of the entire display down to a printing process, including conductive plastics and control electronics. The displays can be powered by printable batteries, which are already available commercially, although with current technology the displays would have usable lives measured only in months.
Siemens is currently working on optimizing the materials so the displays react quickly enough to show moving pictures.
Battery life may make the displays suitable only for packaging with high turnover or short life spans, but Siemens envisions the displays being used in print advertisements, covers or special inserts in high-end publications, instructions on medications or consumer goods, and even simple games programmed printed onto the side of a package or given away in magazines. A Siemens spokesperson has been quoted as saying that any image which can be shown on a TV or LCD screen could be handled by the thin displays, although at a somewhat lower quality.
Currently, one square meter of the material costs around Â£30 (about US$52).
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