In the race for ever-thinner displays for TVs, cellphones and other gadgets, Sony may have developed one to beat them all— a razor-thin display that bends like paper while showing full-colour video.
Sony Corp. has released a video of the new 6.5-centimetre display. In it, a hand squeezes a display that is 0.3 millimetres thick. The display shows colour images of a stunt-riding bicyclist and a picturesque lake.
Although flat-panel TVs are getting slimmer, a display that's so thin it bends in your hand marks a breakthrough. Sony said it has yet to decide on commercial products using the technology.
"In the future, it could get wrapped around a lamppost or a person's wrist, even worn as clothing," said Sony spokesman Chisato Kitsukawa. "Perhaps it can be put up like wallpaper."
Tatsuo Mori, an engineering and computer science professor at Nagoya University, said some hurdles remain, including making the display bigger, ensuring durability and cutting costs.
But he said the display's pliancy is extremely difficult to imitate with liquid crystal displays and plasma display panels— the two main display technologies now on the market. "To come up with a flexible screen at that image quality is groundbreaking. You can drop it and it won't break, because it's as thin as paper."
The new display combines two technologies: Sony's organic thin film transistor, which is required to make flexible displays, and organic electro-luminescent display.
'To come up with a flexible screen at that image quality is groundbreaking. You can drop it and it won't break, because it's as thin as paper.'—Tatsuo Mori, Nagoya University
Other companies, including LG. Philips LCD Co. and Seiko Epson Corp., are working on a different kind of "electronic paper" technology, but Sony said the organic electroluminescent display delivers better colour images and is more suited for video.
In a meeting with reporters more than a year ago, Sony president Ryoji Chubachi had boasted Sony was working on a technology for displays so thinthey could be rolled up like paper. He had predicted that the world would stand up and take notice.
Some analysts have said Sony, which makes Walkman portable players and PlayStation 3 video game consoles, had fallen behind rivals in flat-panel technology, including Samsung Electronics Co. of South Korea and Sharp Corp. of Japan.
But Sony has been making a turnaround under Chubachi and chief executive Howard Stringer, the first foreigner to head Sony, by reducing jobs, shuttering unprofitable businesses and strengthening its flat TV offerings.