Professor pioneers world's first foldable electronic display

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 November, 2007, 12:00am

A local academic has produced the world's first foldable electronic display - a paper-thin device about one-sixth the thickness of a credit card.

It could prove revolutionary because it uses less power and is cheaper to produce than LCD technology.

The 'Paper-like Thermochromic Electronic Display' was developed by Wen Weijia, a professor of physics, and his team at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

The device, which can be bent or wrapped around a column or folded like paper, is made by embedding conductive wiring patterns into thermochromic composite films.

The images that are produced are clear and the colour display can be tuned, reversed or repeated by varying the temperature.

'The thickness of our device is only 150 microns. The advantages are it uses relatively less power and has a lower manufacturing cost,' Professor Wen said. 'The use of liquid crystal display [LCD] technology can become very expensive as the size of the display increases.'

He said the new device cuts manufacturing cost to a tenth of that of conventional LCD technology. An electronic display the size of the one in Times Square could be made for HK$5,000 or less.

Professor Wen hopes it will soon be used on large electronic billboards, colour filters, temperature sensors and e-books around the city.

'As the device is foldable, it can be rolled into a cylinder shape for transportation to the display location. It is very convenient.'

Ultimately, Professor Wen hopes it can be applied to electronic newspapers. 'Society can hence be more environmentally friendly when e-newspapers replace newspapers.'

However, it does have drawbacks.

Compared to the application of LCD technology, the new device is not yet able to support high-resolution colour images. The display is limited to six colours, so a short-term goal for the team is to develop more colours.

Since the completion of the device this year, Professor Wen said about four companies, including American and South Korean companies, had shown interest.

The next stage will probably involve collaboration with a large LCD company in the city to make improvements. But he said details had yet to be confirmed.

Professor Wen hopes a patent application will prove successful within six months.