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Gadgets & Home Improvement

Flexible screen breakthrough

The flexible display of the Samsung Youm being demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show this year
The Straits Times - April 1, 2013
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Flexible screen breakthrough

American materials company Cima Nanotech, which based its global headquarters in Singapore in 2008, is currently working with local research agency A*Star's Institute of Materials Research and Engineering to create a coating that, when used on materials such as plastic, will give it similar touchscreen properties as glass.

With this Self-Aligning Nano Technology for Electronics coating, also known as Sante, it will be possible to produce large flexible displays with faster touch response times at lower cost.

Display panels typically use a coating to conduct a current between the screen and the touch sensor.

Conventional conductive coatings used on current displays are made of indium tin oxide and transparent conductive oxide. But both are limited in conductivity, flexibility and are very costly.

"Most of the displays you see today are built on indium tin oxide, but it cracks easily when it is bent 4 per cent beyond its original state," said Cima Nanotech's chief executive, Mr Jon Brodd.

On the other hand, Sante uses a proprietary silver nanoparticle dispersion to coat display components. This, he said, is not as complex or as expensive as a tin oxide coating.

The coating forms a network of lines which conducts an electric current, leaving enough space in between to allow light to pass through with minimal obstruction.

"Sante is the only transparent conductive material in the market that can bend and stretch in three dimensions and it doesn't change properties," he said.

This makes it more easily applied to existing materials, such as plastic, which is more flexible than glass. And the improved conductivity and transparency provided by Sante are crucial to large flexible screens.

Still, the partnership between Cima Nanotech and A*Star is on improving a display's flexibility and responsiveness, and not on making new types of flexible displays, he emphasised.

Instead, both are leveraging on each other's expertise to develop new market applications. "The final goal is to create cheaper, flexible, more eco-friendly and sustainable products," said Dr Zhang Jie, lead scientist for the institute's printed electronics initiative.

The same technology can also be used to defrost windows or to make a window go opaque by passing an electric current through the coating.

But it is far from being ready for implementation.

Digital Life understands that Cima Nanotech is in discussions with several Japanese display manufacturers and companies about Sante, but Mr Brodd said he could not name these partners due to a confidentiality agreement.


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