Editorial Feature

Bendy Phones – Materials and Innovations

The idea of 'unbreakable' mobile phones is hoped to be a reality very soon and broken/damaged screens a thing of the past. According to reports, 2013 will see the emergence of a new revolution in mobile phones, phones that can be squished, rolled, folded, stepped on and possibly even worn. Researchers are creating prototypes of such phones that will be rollable, wafer thin and bendable just like paper.

Researchers are studying the use of graphene and flexible OLED technology to design these novel phones. Researchers anticipate that plastic electronics, also termed as printable and organic electronics, will transform the electronics industry. When compared to conventional silicon-based inorganic materials, this field includes electronic devices made from organic, carbon-based materials and components.

This will enable economical manufacture of electronic circuits on flexible or rigid surfaces. This technology will enable the evolution of digital posters, smartphones and tablets with bendy screens and even clothes with digital displays.

Materials for Bendy Phones

Researchers are experimenting the wonder material graphene for use in bendy phones. Graphene is a carbon sheet of thickness of just one atom, yet is highly transparent, lightweight and stronger than diamond. According to researchers, graphene is capable of replacing silicon and transforming electronics. It is believed that graphene will improve the performance of OLED-type flexible phones significantly since theoretically it is possible to even design the flexible battery of a handset with this material.

Introducing Graphene

It is possible to use graphene or a nanotube hybrid material to design a bendy phone and also the flexible battery. The hybrid substance, which may include towering carbon nanotubes from a graphene sheet, permits larger surface area of highly conductive material that in theory may revolutionize the idea of energy storage. Integration of physical stability and high storage capacity is a boon for cell phone users.

OLED technology is also being used for the design of these bendy phones. Samsung has implemented this technology in its prototype. Flexible OLEDs use a flexible plastic substrate on which OLEDs are arranged. Normally OLEDs are made on a glass substrate; however, by using flexible plastics such as PET, the manufactured screens are both lightweight and flexible.

Bendy Phone Companies

It was in the 1960s that the first flexible solar arrays appeared. The first prototype of a rollable display was demonstrated by Philips in 2005. Around two years later, flexible technology gained popularity. The first Kindle e-reader by Amazon used a flexible plastic screen for image display. The only issue was that the components under it required that the device be stiff. E-ink displays are not made bendy mostly because they are quite expensive.

South Korean firm LG Displays has begun mass-production of flexible e-ink screens. They believe that this could help in the design of future handsets. Plastic Logic is also working along with E-Ink. In May last year, Plastic Logic demonstrated a flexible screen similar to paper that can play colour video by placing a filter atop the original black-and-white display. Japanese company NEC developed this prototype.

Several companies including Philips, LG, Sony, Sharp and Nokia are making efforts to develop this technology. Reports suggest that Samsung will be commercially launching its first bendy phone in 2013. Samsung has used OLED technology and Nokia is probing the use of graphene for these phones.

Benefits and Drawbacks Of Bendy Phones

The key benefits of bendy phones currently portrayed are flexibility, the ability to be rolled, squished, folded and the fact that it cannot be easily scratched or damage. Further advancements may result in a phone that can be possibly worn as a wristwatch.

The main drawbacks of a bendy phone if made based on OLED technology are:

  • The deposition of layers on a flexible substrate may result in residual stress. Thermal stresses may also occur.
  • The material indium tin oxide that is normally used as the transparent anode is brittle and there are chances that it may fracture when the display is bent or folded, there may be an increase in sheet resistance or the layered structure of the OLED may be disrupted. This may result in a reduced brightness of the display.
  • Another disadvantage with OLEDs is that they degrade when exposed to moisture and air hence must be encapsulated.

Even though graphene is a highly popular material, graphene may have certain health impacts, according to some researchers. Although there is no substantial evidence in this area, as graphene is a relatively new material, its level of impact needs to be tested and proven if it is to be used commercially in the future.

Sources and Further Reading

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

G.P. Thomas

Written by

G.P. Thomas

Gary graduated from the University of Manchester with a first-class honours degree in Geochemistry and a Masters in Earth Sciences. After working in the Australian mining industry, Gary decided to hang up his geology boots and turn his hand to writing. When he isn't developing topical and informative content, Gary can usually be found playing his beloved guitar, or watching Aston Villa FC snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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