Friday, March 30, 2012

#MATERIALS: "Flexible Transparent Smartphones On The Way"

All the different components in mobile gadgets like cell phones now have transparent versions, heralding a day of bendable, see-through electronic devices.

Flexible transparent gadgets with touch-screens, processors, memory and batteries will begin appearing a few years now that all the components have been demonstrated in the lab. (Source: Rice University)

Over the last few years all of the electronic components (processor, memory, touch-screen, batteries) in a modern gadget like a smart phone have been demonstrated in transparent versions in the lab. Now it is only a matter of a few years before all the pieces are integrated into see-through, bendable electronic gadgets that will rock your world.

One recent development in this front was presented at this week’s American Chemical Society 2012 conference. There, visionary Rice University professor James Tour described his transparent memory invention and how it can be combined with transparent processors from the University of Cambridge and transparent batteries from Stanford University to create flexible touch-screen electronic gadgets, such as a see-through smartphones you can wrap around your wrist.

The technology behind Tour's transparent memory invention was first revealed in a New York Times story, which reported that startup PrivaTran Inc. was developing the technology. Tour's invention uses silicon dioxide--normally an insulator--in a semiconductor mode by using a high voltage to force electricity to flow through it, thereby stripping out the oxygen atoms in channels of pure silicon less than five nanometers wide during the "writing" of digital bits. Smaller voltages can then be used to read-out the stored 1s and 0s until such as time as they need to be erased and rewritten with a high-voltage.

Researchers at Rice have made progress in developing a three-dimensional (3D) version of Tour's memory so that ultra-thin multi-layer transparent memories could be built up to store enough bits to be useful in future transparent electronic gadgets.

To build a compete see-through gadget, processor circuits can be built by ink-jet printing crystalline carbon films--called graphene--on transparent polymer substrates using technology developed at the University of Cambridge by professor Andrea Ferrari. These processors too could be stack in ultra-thin layers in 3D to enable enough transistors for a complete see-through processor.

The transparent batteries have been demonstrated in the Stanford University lab of professor Yi Cui. By using a novel grid-structure to fabricate thin-film battery electrodes using microfluidics, Cui has demonstrated see-through batteries in the lab with enough energy storage potential to power a transparent cell phone or similar mobile electronics gadget.