Martes 7 de Mayo de 2002, Ip nš 14

Research may make a screen scrollable
NEW YORK (AP) -- The day's getting closer when you might be able to unplug your full-size computer screen, roll it up and stick it into your pocket.

Today's liquid crystal displays, or LCDs -- used in laptops, watches and cell phones -- are sandwiched between two rigid pieces of glass.

But researchers at Royal Philips Electronics have devised a way of making them by just painting the raw materials onto almost any kind of surface: walls, sheets of plastic -- or even clothing.

The technique, developed by five researchers working at the company's research laboratory in the Netherlands, could allow flexible, lightweight LCDs that can be rolled up or folded.

If the technology catches on, cheap, paintable LCDs could wind up in previously unimagined places, says Bob O'Donnell, a display technology analyst with IDC Corp.

"Count how many screens you have in your home and multiply that by a big factor," he says.

'Photo-enforced stratification'

The Philips technique, called "photo-enforced stratification," involves painting a liquid crystal and polymer mixture onto a surface, then exposing it to two doses of ultraviolet radiation.

The radiation forces the mixture to separate into a honeycomb of tiny individual cells covered by flexible, see-through polymer. When connected to a computer, the crystal-filled cells can be ordered to change color to create a picture, like any LCD.

An article on Philips' research into the technique appears in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

Some kinks need to be worked out. And so far, the inventors have only painted their mixture onto glass.

Flexible displays are seen as one of the last requirements for more pervasive portable computing.

Computers have been shrunk to fit inside portable devices like cell phones and personal data assistants.

But screens remain rigid, as when attached to a laptop, or have to be small enough to fit onto a cell phone or PDA, too small to surf the Web in a rewarding way.

A truly portable Internet-connected and wireless display would allow someone to read, say, an instantly updated electronic newspaper while riding on the bus.

Not just Philips

Several companies have marshaled developers to work toward lightweight, flexible screens.

Universal Display, for example, is based in Ewing, New Jersey, and is working on what it terms FOLEDs or flexible organic light-emitting devices that could one day be laminated onto a military uniform sleeve, a car's windshield or the face guard of a helmet.

Philips is exploring multiple paths toward this goal, developing flexible plastic transistors as well as a type of "electronic paper" display in concert with E Ink Corp, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and developing paper-like screens.

"Trying to surf the Net over your cell phone is like watching a movie through a keyhole," says Russ Wilcox, E Ink's co-founder. "What people want is a big display that is very portable, so they can get access to all the information on the Internet."

Philips is an investor and development partner for ultra-thin, lightweight -- but non-flexible -- displays E Ink plans to release next year, Wilcox says.


  01/05/2002. CNN.