Chalmers University of Technology researchers have developed a conductive surface as thin as a sheet of paper, which can produce a super-thin tablet screen with the quality of an LED display.
The electronic “paper” was developed over a year of testing after the idea grew out of work with conductive polymers. Researcher Andreas Dahlin and PhD student Kunli Xiong found that putting the polymers on top of a nanostructure surface could create a thin, flexible electronic display that is more energy-efficient and versatile than a tablet screen.
The “paper” might be especially useful for signage used outside, because it reflects external light. So, unlike LED screens, it won’t fade out in full sunlight. It also uses less energy than a tablet such as a Kindle, which is also made to be used in varying light. Because of this, it would be suitable for electronic signage or to replace conventional signs with low-energy electronic screens. In order to create these properties, the researchers made the reflective surface using PET plastic, gold, and silver. They haven’t actually built more than a few pixels of it yet, although they say the basis for a tablet-sized sheet is there.
But those glittering materials are one of the biggest challenges the researchers see when thinking about taking their electronic paper from the lab to the commercial world.
“The gold surface is 20 nanometres thick so there is not that much gold in it,” said Andreas Dahlin. “But at present there is a lot of gold wasted in manufacturing it. Either we reduce the waste or we find another way to decrease the manufacturing cost.”
“We are working at a fundamental level but even so, the step to manufacturing a product out of it shouldn’t be too far away,” Dahlin said. “What we need now are engineers.”
Detailed information about the material was published in the journal Advanced Materials in September.
Filed Under: Materials • advanced