Feeling the need to roll up your screen?

Image of “sheets” of SGT’s. Credit: University of Surrey

Detail of a sheet of SGT’s. Credit: University of Surrey

There have been over the last ten years several technological advances in electronics and part of these have been in finding ways to make transistors using different materials or different manufacturing processes resulting in circuits that can stand higher temperatures, or be manufactured at lower temperatures and hence use substrates like plastic that cannot survive the heat produced in the usual wafer manufacturing, or be significantly cheaper per unit if you are aiming at producing just a few chips and so on.

The hurdles that innovation in this area is facing is the tremendous success of "classical" chip manufacturing that is basically squash any alternative, because of its overwhelming inefficiency in cost and volume.

Still, scientists and researchers are at work hoping, beyond hope, that either the classical manufacturing process will reach a limit that will no longer be able to bypass or that some niches may prove economically worth pursuing to support the innovation proposed.

Flexible screens may open up design creativity and they may be one of those niches I mentioned, able to generate sufficient revenues. And if that proves true continue refinement will increase efficiency and push the niche boundaries a little further apart leading to a self sustaining increasing marketplace.

Technology for flex screens already exists, actually several technologies can lead to an electronic circuit functioning on a curved surface and on a surface that changes its shape over time, like our skin. None, so far, has proved itself good enough to generate a product that wins the market.

In this news arriving from the University of Surrey researchers have been working with Philips (and that is good new since Philips can provide the industrial underpinning required to bring the innovation to the market) to create a new sort of transistor, a Source Gated Transistor, SGT, that because of its structure and manufacturing process can be used to create electronic circuits on a flexible plastic surface as well as on a fabric.

As such it could be used for roll up screens (and this begs the question if you really have a need for a roll up screen, a need so strong that makes you willing to spend a bit more for that...) as well as for clothes to create wearable sensors that are not intrusive (like the ones that need to be glued on the skin).

I am pretty sure that eventually an innovation that supports flexible electronics and easy to embed electronics will hit, successfully, the market. There is a lot of rumours on wearable electronics, there has been for quite a number of years but the rumours are both stronger and coming from different directions.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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