Scientist in China and Hong Kong have developed what they claim is a flexible, paper-like LCD display less than half a millimetre thick.
The opto-electronic engineers, who are currently working on a joint research project in China and Hong Kong, described the new display as "paper-thin, flexible, light and tough".
They claim that a "daily newspaper could be uploaded onto a flexible paper-like display that could be updated as fast as the news cycles". The researchers add that the screen is "cheap to produce" and could therefore be more widely embedded than current screen technology.
The researchers estimate that a five-inch unit would cost just $5. They have published their findings in the journal Applied Physics Letters.
Over the past few months, the team have been exploring a number of ways to develop an ultra-thin LCD display and have focused on "two key innovations".
First, they aimed to create a display "structured like a sandwich" that sported a "liquid crystal filling between two plates". However, instead of relying on more conventional electrical connections, they adopted "special molecules".
These "realign in the presence of polarised light and switch the pixels", which removes "the need for traditional electrodes". By doing this, LCD displays can be shrinked.
According to the scientists, these "rewritable LCDs are thinner than traditional LCDs" and usually come in at "less than half-a-millimetre thick".
They can also be made from plastic. Jiatong Sun, a co-author from Donghua University in China, said that the new display is "only a little thicker than paper".
The other benefit of optically rewritable LCDs is that they are often cheap and quick to produce, yet this does not affect their durability.
Comparing them to e-book displays, the scientists explained that this type of LCD "only required to switch display images or text". They do not "need power to sustain an image once it is written on the screen".
Sun said there is also variability in the material of this LCD technology. He explained: "We put spacers between glass layers to keep the liquid crystal layer uniform."
He admitted that the researchers have some way to go before they can turn the LCD into a fully commercial product - Sun wants to improve its resolution first.
"Now we have three colours but for full colour we need to make the pixels too small for human eyes to see," he said.
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