Scientists have long worked to harness the unusual properties of graphene, a two-dimensional sheet of carbon atoms. As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, it is believed to be the strongest, most lightweight and flexible material, and ultimately has the potential to revolutionize industries across the spectrum, from healthcare to electronics.
Now, it appears that developers are inching closer to a commercial breakthrough. A flexible display incorporating graphene in its pixels’ electronics has been successfully demonstrated by the Cambridge Graphene Centre and Plastic Logic, marking the very first time graphene has been used in a transistor-based flexible device. The project, which was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the EU’s Graphene Flagship, is just the first step towards a wider implementation of graphene-like materials into flexible electronics.
The prototype uses an electrophoretic film, which is similar to the screens used in today’s e-readers with the added benefit of being flexible. In future iterations of the device, the research team will look at using liquid crystal (LCD) and organic light emitting diodes (OLED) technology to produce color images.
“The new prototype is an active matrix electrophoretic display, similar to the screens used in today’s e-readers, except it is made of flexible plastic instead of glass. In contrast to conventional displays, the pixel electronics, or backplane, of this display includes a solution-processed graphene electrode, which replaces the sputtered metal electrode layer within Plastic Logic’s conventional devices, bringing product and process benefits,” the report adds.
The ultra-flexible graphene layer may enable a wide range of products, including bendable and foldable electronics. Graphene can also be processed from solution bringing inherent benefits of using more efficient printed and roll-to-roll manufacturing approaches. However, it still remains unclear as to when such displays will be used and in what devices.
“The potential of graphene is well-known, but industrial process engineering is now required to transition graphene from laboratories to industry,” explained Indro Mukerjee, CEO of Plastic Logic.