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IBM Announces Flexible Transistors 41

Doofus writes "A Reuters wire story announces that IBM has created 'flexible transistor' material 'that could one day be used to make, for instance, a computer screen that could be rolled up.' This material would not replace IC chips, but instead would substitute for amorphous silicon used for other tech-components." Read the story on Yahoo.
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IBM Announces Flexible Transistors

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  • 3M has something similar, but I think it's just flexible circuit board for use in those curvy ergonomically designed cellular phones. Sorry, no time to hunt the website down.
  • These flexible transistors can have a huge benefit to the medical community. Imagine, if you will, taking these transistors, and combining them with nano-technology. Albeit, that's at the far end of the spectrum, but still ... it makes for some interesting ideas.

    In the more immediate future, I can see them being used in prosthetic devices, tissue implants, etc.

    Combine that with tissue cloning (not sheep cloning, and not full-blown human cloning either. I'm talking just a skin covering like the Borg gave Data in the 2nd Next Generation movie ... the name escapes me at this time), and some serious AI (we're far from that still), and we'll have Cyborgs a la Terminator (a friendlier name will have to be thought of though. "Terminator" just does not emit a warm fuzy feeling. Neither does Teletubby. Something in-between would be good.)
  • by Effugas ( 2378 ) on Friday October 29, 1999 @03:50AM (#1578424) Homepage
    It is reasonably obvious that flexible semiconductors will lead to revolutions in wearable computing. It's not particularly obvious what those revolutions will be.

    To be fair, IBM isn't the first company to be dealing with flexible technologies--the e-ink system is almost a fabric, and OLED(Organic Light Emitting Diode) manufacturers have been hacking away for years trying to get something marketable.

    However, IBM's announcement is another sign in the coming change.

    Ask your grandparents about the plastics revolution. The ability to easily form objects in any shape and texture created tremendous economic shifts throughout the world. (The fact that the leading Plastics company was just replaced on the Dow by a major tech bellwhether is rather significant in this context.) The fact that computer hardware will be able to undergo its own "plastics revolution" may indeed forge a shocking, nearly unrecognizable by today's technology shift in product concepts.

    Flexible displays: Expect products like e-books whose pages soothingly glow, even in darkness. These will at least be offered, though they won't do all that well unless the resolution gets very high and the price gets extremely low.

    One thing that will happen is that huge displays should finally become cheap and easy to create. Present LCD systems are woefully inadequate for creating multi-panel displays, so you don't really see display systems created that have mosaics of large LCD screens arrayed border to border in a wide screen display. The "off screen" space cannot be just eliminated. Flexible technology offers the ability to "fold back" the non-visible support wiring, so each panel could be placed directly alongside an ajoining display. Toss in a bit of alignment and "at the factory" gluing and you have only a thin black line admitting that the pieces were once distinct.

    What's likely to be a complete hit, though, would be the coming wave of wrist computing. I've seen holders for Palmpilots for the wrist--trust me, the Palm belongs on your palm. Early iterations of "Wrist Computing" will look more like "Rex On A Watchband"--a 2" by 1" rectangular LCD that the user simply wears at all times. Such a product would be extremely well recieved by the geek community, but the size of the screen would be considered too gawky and unfashionable by many women(half the population, folks) and the classier types. Smaller variants would follow, but people would complain that they could no longer select individual "buttons" on the display.

    Compaq's excellent "Rock and Scroll" would be tried, but it still wouldn't solve everything.

    Flexible displays would fix the entire scope of problems. By default, only a small display would be presented by the wristcomp. Incoming pages, number of emails outstanding, maybe even time. (Joke.) On pressing a button, one or two displays would slide up towards the elbow and/or down towards the palm. The display would now be wide enough to read emails, accept input, display visuals, etc. A simple squeeze motion would spring lock the one or two expanded viewers back into their contracted position.

    Note, the displays themselves wouldn't be flexible--they'd merely be thin enough to have multiple panels fit within a single watch width.

    Of course, with this much flexibility, we can expect Sony to take it to the nth design degree, making the entire product fashionable beyond compare.

    You thought the walkman was huge? Imagine an entire networked computing platform that plays music, gives directions, keeps you organized, and almost literally becomes a part of you.

    The only thing possibly cooler could be HUD Contacts. (And yes--these developments help with that too.)

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research

  • Organic semiconductors have been around for a while. On the display angle, Cambridge Display Technologies [cdtltd.co.uk] pioneered the tech, and are the furthest along with it.

    The problems appear to be with colour purity and stability. Building a small prototype is one thing, but a mass-market display with a 10,000 hour active life is quite another.

    Also, the flexibility is probably being oversold. These things will bend around a limited radius, possibly small enough to roll up, but don't expect animated clothing any time soon.

    But yes, once they get the chemistry sorted out this is a good contender for the display technology of the next century.


  • Actually, most of the others are completely different technologies.

    If I remember correctly, one was utilizing nanotubes... That's not going to happen for quite a while. In fact, I doubt it'll ever make the big time usage the inventors would like it to have.

    The other involves tiny balls suspended in oil that flip according to their current charge. From the methods I've seen, this is the one that could possibly make it into consumer hands. I'm visualizing a page of the stuff in an otherwise normal book. Just a page, maybe a few, but not the entire book. btw, this is the one that Sears (or was it JC Penney) used in that blue and white sign that appeared on /. some months ago.

    In any case, I think this particular tech was mislabeled. They mention that OTHER people are working on flexible display technologies. This would instead allow a device's case to also be it's processing board.


  • The new technology is about the transistors to do the logic for the screen.

    From the Reuters' story: "Other scientists are working on materials that could replace the lighted part of the display."

  • And I thought wall-sized Doom from an overhead projector was scary...
  • It's a perceptive post!

    Because it's flexible, mankind can finally realise the dream of a breast-shaped computer display.

    Otherwise, the unfortunate Ms. Portman would have to be viewed on a flat screen.

    Er... or something.

    This comment was brought to you by And Clover.
  • I remember hearing of these about four or five years ago. My hope is that this reposting means that they are close to moving them from the lab to a real world product.
  • Something like this would be great for making rugged laptop screens. At present, most laptop screens are made of glass - this makes them very vulnerable! I know several people who have managed to smash their screen.
  • >Hmmm... that probably explains The Doctor's scarf.

    Ok, I've heard watches, sleeves, and now a scarf. Everyone's missing the obvious future direction of powerful, portable computers.

  • Finally, something useful. The flexibility will allow technology to be used to manage multi-function devices for the home. People love to buy convenience. Imagine what a product designer could do with a flexible logic board. A blender will never look the same.

    From a business standpoint, computers and technology can be customized for each application. Computers that can fit in a curved area or wrapped around the back/base of a monitor or flat panel display.

    Wow. I am humbled.
  • Wearable computers have just been brought a step closer. The most computing power will belong to the nerd with the longest sleeves.
    Hmmm... that probably explains The Doctor's scarf.
  • by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Friday October 29, 1999 @03:33AM (#1578441)
    Oh this is just a marketer's wet dream come true. Cheap, flexible, and could be used to replaced lighted displays, eventually, maybe.

    Imagine getting off of your bicycle seat and having it beep at you for attention. You look down and it shows a multi-colored outline of your own ass with figures showing burnt calories, elapsed time, a couple banner ads, and a projection of the smaller ass you could have if you rode twice a day.

    Sponsorship of a park for increased revenues. Kids run by giggling and if they get within 30 feet of certain trees, those trees light up becoming cylindrical displays asking you if you've considered the benefits of long-term life insurance.

    Think fashion is outrageous today with its loud and proud trademarks yelling at you that this sweatshirt was overpriced? Now imagine a commercial playing on that very same sweatshirt with a thin surly teen whispering the word, "Obsession" 15 times a minute. "Turn down your shirt, please."

    Or even, I'm getting blue here - hide the kids, you peel off your condom after a short but satisfying lovemaking session and it displays the odds of conception and does a 15 second test of its integrity. Oh that'll be the longest 15 seconds of your life.

    All that aside, think how cool the Goodyear blimp is gonna be viewing it through the laptop computer that is part of your pants.

  • that's very interesting..I guess I can now replace my windows drapes with a computer screen.

    or if that fails I'll just lie in my bed... the one with the monitor bed-sheets

  • So what they seem to be saying is that you could have an all-digital, all-electronic IMAX-type system, for a very low cost. Just spray this stuff onto a dome roof, and plug in your laptop. No need for projectors, or reels of film a foot wide.

    Alternatively, it could be used to make cheap, high-quality screens for concert stadiums or motor racing circuits, where (at present) the resolution is pathetic and the screens probably cost a fortune to buy, run and maintain.

    Most exciting of all - bored of those glow-in-the-dark stars for your ceiling? Why not paint the ceiling with this stuff and use it as a giant monitor?

  • It sounds like this could be a bit too expensive, and a bit too complex when compared to something like the light-emitting plastic (LEP) [eet.com] that Philips is working with. I mean, full-color screens on t-shirts, floors, etc.

    Everyone seems to see this as a Good Thing(TM), and I can't wait to have my screen be an entire wall of my office, but just imagine the marketing blitzkrieg that will eventually ensue... The floors in supermarkets, the billboards...
  • What, again?

    Another /. story about how a some new technology is going to give us large, inexpensive, flexible flat-panel displays?

    Is it just the same thing being invented over and over again every few months or so for the last five years?

    It would be really, really nice to retire the bulky, heavy, hot-running and unreliable CRT - I certianly never want to buy a traditional monitor again. But there's still not much competition; low yields keep TFT very expensive.

    So please, could someone, somewhere develop a workable display from one of the technologies we've read press releases about for years. I don't want to still be using a CRT in another five years' time...

    Deja vu? Oh yeah, I posted more or less the same thing the last time too. :-)

    This comment was brought to you by And Clover.
  • Dude, forget sleeves... who needs clothes anymore? Just spray this stuff on one set of clothes and then plug yourself into your computer every morning and decide whether you want to wear a three piece suit or khaki shorts and a hawaiian t-shirt.

    Hmm... still leaves the problems of body odor, though, but enough deodorant usually solves that dilemma. It's still not quite the perfect replacement for wardrobe-challenged individuals such as I, but it'll do fine until the next best thing.
  • I would rather prefer to see my future computer connected to holography device and not just 2D flat display

    Any ideas?

  • by emmons ( 94632 )
    This is a somewhat related post, but still relevant I think.

    Is it just me, or does it seem that IBM is the one of the only major corporations doing serious R&D these days?

    I mean, look... copper data paths, increasing hard drive density and now this. Sure, phillips, sony and others are doing great things with displays, but that's pretty much just refining the manufacturing process for things that were developed years ago. Does anyone else see my point?

  • One day you will be able to buy tins of this stuff to paint over anything you like, like a younger brother, and from your local DIY store! Excellent....

    More seriously, how does this compare with the LEP technology from CDT [cdtltd.co.uk] that has been recently developed? LEP is a currently working display technology, it is only 1 layer deep (compared with 3 layers for LCD displays) and thus costs a lot less to make. I think it also has the potential to be put onto flexible materials. Within the next year or so you will be able to get devices incorporating this technology (such as mobile phones, hi-res screen watches etc) and soon maybe notebook screens.

    Makes me think, if a notebook screen was foldable, then instead of making the screen wider (thus making the case bigger and less notebook-like), you could make the screens higher, maybe analogous to a sheet of A3 paper, but not have to have an absolutely huge case to carry around...

    Also great for animated temporary tattoos I am sure! Stick on the tattoo, it powers itself from your body heat (or static electricity or something I have forgotten what) and then you get a video of Slayer/Steps/Sinatra/Porn playing on your arm or whatever!

  • NY Times article suggest another use: solar cells. Imagine going camping with a solar-powered tent, refugee camps providing their won power, every flat surface turned into either monitor or a power surface. http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/99/10/biztech/ articles/29blue.html
  • by deefer ( 82630 ) on Friday October 29, 1999 @03:48AM (#1578455) Homepage
    Coming soon on /. ...

    British Gas describes a new phenomenon "fire"

    Ford announces the invention of the wheel.

    British scientists successfully domesticate a sheep! Ethical row anticipated!

    Xerox files for printing press patent

    Hawking hit on the head by an apple, and appreciates the gravity on the situation

    IBM announce revolutionary new reckoning machine - the "abacus"

  • by anticypher ( 48312 ) <anticypher&gmail,com> on Friday October 29, 1999 @03:48AM (#1578457) Homepage
    This has been discussed on slashdot before [slashdot.org], and the story has been kicking around for a while. Sounds like some IBM PR flack decided it was a slow day and re-ran an announcement.

    Combine these flex screens with flexible keyboards [slashdot.org], and some flexible batteries [slashdot.org], and wearable computers become possible. I could have a leather and flex-screen jacket connected to my leg computer via my PAN (Person Area Network), then put on the screen whatever interests me today {pr0n, motorcycles, requests for a date and my IP address, the latest SW video}

    Then I could sell some scrollable advertising space available to eyeballs everywhere as I walk around town. I could have a small radio/GSM link to an internet server picking up bids on the advertising rates :-)

    The days of Johnny Mnemonic are slowly coming true, and slashdot is the chronicler of the era.

    the AC
  • Banner ads EVERYWHERE.

    I can hardly wait.

  • In the article, it mentions OTHER people working on the display technologies. So this is basically a way to make a circuit design that isn't like the traditional.

    Granted, it would be cool to have a device that utilizes it's case for computing power. Just imagine what a device the size of a palm could do with this technology.

    Still, it doesn't solve the display problems.

  • The first thought that came to my mind (this must be freudian) was textured screens... ones that webpages and programs alike could texture on the fly. Then of course (here is the freudian part =] ) my next thought was.... all those "dirty webpages" sure would become a whole lot more interesting...

    Porn already accounts for what.. like 90% of the eCommerce today... this would definately help boost that even higher.

    For every good idea... there are atleast ten bad ones... (like this one)


"The greatest warriors are the ones who fight for peace." -- Holly Near