Plastic Logic and the Cambridge Graphene Centre demonstrate the first flexible display based on graphene
The advance shows how research done in the Graphene Flagship can transfer to industry, and accelerate the development and commercial exploitation of this remarkable material.
Graphene is crystalline carbon arranged in transparent, single atom-thick layers, with the carbon atoms set in a honeycomb-like lattice. This two-dimensional material has a number of unique electrical, mechanical and other properties that give it huge potential for applications ranging from electronics to super-strong structures.
The device developed by Plastic Logic and the Cambridge Graphene Centre is an active matrix electrophoretic display of the type used in e-book readers. The difference is that the new graphene display is flexible, whereas current e-reader displays have rigid glass backplanes.
Flexible displays are not in themselves new, but what is novel about the latest development is the incorporation of a graphene electrode into the pixel backplane. This replaces the sputtered metal electrode layer used in Plastic Logic’s previous flexible displays.
In addition to the advantages of physical flexibility and transparency, the use of graphene brings a number of industrial process benefits. For example, graphene can be processed from solution, and thus included in scalable printing and roll-to-roll manufacturing techniques. The backplane can also be produced at temperatures of less than 100 C, using Plastic Logic’s proprietary Organic Thin-Film Transistor technology.
Combined with an electrophoretic imaging film, the result is an ultra-low power and durable display suitable for use in many environments. Future devices will include liquid crystal (LCD) and organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology to create fast, full colour displays capable of rendering video images and complex computer graphics. Flexible display backplanes are also of benefit in distributed sensor arrays, medical imaging, and human gesture recognition.
“This is a significant step forward to enable fully wearable and flexible devices,” says Professor Andrea Ferrari, director of the Cambridge Graphene Centre, and chairman of the executive board of the European research and development initiative known as the Graphene Flagship, of which the Cambridge Graphene Centre at the University of Cambridge is a partner. “Hopefully, this will be one of many examples of technologies taken from lab to fab thanks to the support of Flagship funding.”
Plastic Logic chief executive Indro Mukerjee adds: “The potential of graphene is well-known, but industrial process engineering is now required to transition graphene from lab to fab. This demonstration puts Plastic Logic at the forefront of the development, which will soon enable a new generation of ultra-flexible and even foldable electronics.”
Plastic Logic and the Cambridge Graphene Centre are now working on an advanced, full-colour OLED display, and hope to realise this ambition in the near future.