Roll-Up Flexible Displays May Use Source Gated Transistor Sheets

A new circuit component called Source-Gated Transistors (SGT) has been created by researchers from the University of Surrey and scientists from Philips. Sheets of this new material could be used to make "roll-up screens" a reality, straight from the pages of science fiction dating back to the 1950's.

('Sheets' of Source Gated Transistors [SGTs])

SGTs control the electric current just as it enters a semiconductor, which decreases the odds of circuit malfunction, improves energy efficiency and keeps fabrication costs to a minimum. These properties make SGTs ideal for next-generation electronic devices, and could enable digital technologies to be incorporated into those built using flexible plastics or clothing textiles.

Such technologies may include ultra-lightweight and flexible gadgets which can be rolled up to save space when not in use, smart plasters, which, thinner than a human hair, can wirelessly monitor the health of the wearer, low-cost electronic shopping tags for instant checkout without the need for queuing, and disaster prediction sensors, used on buildings in regions that are at high risk of natural disasters.

“These technologies involve thin plastic sheets of electronic circuits, similar to sheets of paper, but embedded with smart technologies. Until now, such technologies could only be produced reliably in small quantities, and that confined them to the research lab. However, with SGTs we have shown we can achieve some characteristics needed to make these technologies viable, without increasing the complexity or cost of the design.” said lead researcher Dr Radu Sporea, Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellow at the Advanced Technology Institute, University of Surrey.

In addition to the more recent sf movies featuring rollup digital screens, pride of place for first mention belongs to science fiction writer E.C. Tubb, who wrote about what he called flexible wall sheet displays in his (still enjoyable!) 1958 novel The Mechanical Monarch:

Against one wall a wide sheet of clear material suddenly flared with light and swirling colour. It steadied and a woman stared from the screen. A woman with long dark hair and eyes that were like twin pools of midnight beneath her heavy brows. She wore a dress of some shining black material and her full lips were red against the whiteness of her skin...

I'd add that Larry Niven wrote about a similar idea in his 1976 novel A World Out of Time; see this reference article on poster TV.

Read more about how New Research Could Help Make Roll-Up Digital Screens a Reality at the University of Surrey website.

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