Research could make foldable displays a reality


Computers you can fold up or roll up and put in your pocket have edged a step closer to reality as scientists have developed a way of making screens and electronics more flexible.

Researchers working at the University of Surrey have developed a piece of technology called the Source-Gated-Transistor (SGT), which was jointly developed with scientists from Philips.

The scientists have hailed this transistor as a breakthrough in creating reliable flexible electronics, suggesting it could make the whole process much more amenable to mass production.

SGTs control the electric current just as it enters a semiconductor, which decreases the odds of circuit malfunction and improves energy efficiency. Both features are critical to the production of flexible electronics.

The researchers said that the technology lends itself to many uses such as ultra-lightweight and flexible gadgets which can be rolled up to save space when not in use. Other users include smart plasters, which, thinner than a human hair, can wirelessly monitor the health of the wearer, low-cost electronic shopping tags for instant checkout without the need for queuing and disaster prediction sensors used on buildings in regions that are at high risk of natural disasters.

Dr Radu Sporea, Royal Academy of Engineering research fellow at the Advanced Technology Institute, University of Surrey, said that the technology has fundamental implications for the feasibility of flexible electronics manufacture.

"These technologies involve thin plastic sheets of electronic circuits, similar to sheets of paper, but embedded with smart technologies," said Dr. Sporea.

"Until now, such technologies could only be produced reliably in small quantities, and that confined them to the research lab. However, with SGTs we have shown we can achieve some characteristics needed to make these technologies viable, without increasing the complexity or cost of the design."

Dr Sporea added that by making these devices less complex and implicitly very affordable, "we could see the next generation of gadgets become mainstream much quicker than we thought."

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.