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Two Asia innovations to revolutionise mobile devices

Ross O. Storey | Dec. 1, 2010
Could this weeks announcements be the future of fashion, news media and hand-held computers?

Call it serendipity, call it coincidence, but every now and then comes a week where some mind-boggling technological breakthroughs are announced that are likely to dramatically change the IT world and digital devices as we known them.

Such a week has just passed and the two breakthroughs that caught my eye happened in Taiwan and Singapore. Im somewhat surprised that they appear to have escaped major attention because they appear quite historic.

The first was announced by Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), a government-sponsored research institute, and licensee AU Optronics - one of the world's largest LCD screen makers.

This Taiwan breakthrough was a manufacturing process able to develop flexible screens as thin as a piece of paper which may be available for e-reader devices by early next year.

New manufacturing process

John Chen, ITRI general director of the Display Technology Center in Taipei, said ITRI has developed a manufacturing process for the thin displays and AU is in the process of converting an old factory to mass produce them.

Chen said finding a way to manufacture the thin screens was particularly tricky, and the researchers found inspiration in a very unexpected place from a chef in a restaurant.

The statement said: The flexible screens are so thin, around 30 microns, that they have to be bonded to a piece of glass during the production process so they don't curl up.

Problems cropped up when they tried to lift the flexible screen off the glass at the end of the process because heat used in production caused the screens to bond to the glass, so they usually ripped. ITRI tried and failed 63 times to figure out a way to lift the finished screen from the piece of glass before a night out watching a cook led them to the result.

The cook used oil to lift thin Taiwanese crepe from a hot pan, fully intact. ITRI came up with a similar way to add a not-too-sticky material between the flexible display and the glass that enabled them to lift the flexible screen off the glass without a problem.

Wearable screens for clothes

The ITRI-AU statement said: The partnership could lead to thin, flexible displays that could be added to mobile phones for an instant, pull-out screen to wearable screens on clothes or larger rolled up screens that serve the daily news at breakfast every day.

Did he say wearable screens for clothes? This could be the indicator for a fashion revolution not too far away.

The current project is to make e-reader screens aimed at schools, said the statement. The idea is that the flexible screens are more resistant to breaking, since they bend, and would make better e-readers for young children.


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