A bright future for plastics -- robot 'skin,' flexible laptops and electric posters

Jun 30, 2008

WITH market analysts predicting a ten fold increase in the value of the organic light emitting display industry, from £1.5 billion to £15.5 billion, by 2014, it is no wonder that scientists and governments alike are keen to advance research into "plastic electronics".

July's edition of Physics World includes an in-depth feature by three Israeli researchers, Marianna Khorzov and David Andelman, from the School of Physics and Astronomy at Tel Aviv University, and Rafi Shikler, from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Ben Gurion University, about exciting developments in the field.

For a long time, plastic was thought of as an insulating material that could not conduct electricity, but ground-breaking research in the 1970s proved that some plastics could do so. Now, more than thirty years later some of the potential applications of these breakthrough materials – electronic billboards, flexible laptops, high-definition television screens only one centimetre thick – are coming to light.

Plastic-based transistors and organic light-emitting displays are set to shake the electronics market. Transistors, the fundamental building block in modern electronic devices, are traditionally made of silicon. Plastic-based transistors however are easier and cheaper to manufacture than their silicon equivalent. And because plastic is flexible, we could soon see ultrathin, flexible laptops, for example, that would be impossible to make from silicon.

Conventional light-emitting displays, used in televisions, iPods and digital watches, are rigid, expensive and complex to manufacture. Organic light-emitting displays, based on plastic electronics engineering, are easier to manufacture, more flexible and, as an added bonus, also consume less energy. This is why Sony, Samsung and Kodak are all devoting time and money to developing them.

Other exciting developments are likely to be in the field of bionics, including the development of materials sensitive but flexible enough to replicate skin, which could be used by robots in situations where a sense of touch is crucial.

The researchers write, "We expect that, for many applications, these materials will gradually replace silicon and metals, and they may even make possible entirely new technologies, particularly in the field of bionics, which seeks to link up technology with biological systems."

Source: Institute of Physics

Explore further: World's most complex crystal simulated

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Thin-film hybrid oxide-organic microprocessor

Dec 10, 2014

Holst Centre, imec and their partner Evonik have realized a general-purpose 8-bit microprocessor, manufactured using complementary thin-film transistors (TFTs) processed at temperatures compatible with plastic ...

Robotic swimmer with supple silicone web mimics octopus

Sep 24, 2014

Highlighting this month's news of developments in marine robotics: Researchers from the Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas in Greece have worked out a way to mimic the movements of an octopus. ...

Recommended for you

Controlling core switching in Pac-man disks

18 hours ago

Magnetic vortices in thin films can encode information in the perpendicular magnetization pointing up or down relative to the vortex core. These binary states could be useful for non-volatile data storage ...

World's most complex crystal simulated

18 hours ago

The most complicated crystal structure ever produced in a computer simulation has been achieved by researchers at the University of Michigan. They say the findings help demonstrate how complexity can emerge ...

Atoms queue up for quantum computer networks

18 hours ago

In order to develop future quantum computer networks, it is necessary to hold a known number of atoms and read them without them disappearing. To do this, researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute have developed ...

New video supports radiation dosimetry audits

Dec 23, 2014

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL), working with the National Radiotherapy Trials Quality Assurance Group, has produced a video guide to support physicists participating in radiation dosimetry audits.

Ultrasounds dance the 'moonwalk' in new metamaterial

Dec 23, 2014

Metamaterials have extraordinary properties when it comes to diverting and controlling waves, especially sound and light: for instance, they can make an object invisible, or increase the resolving power of ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.