Samsung, LG show flexible OLED, e-paper screens

The development work points to growing interest in screens that can be bent, curved or flexed

Prototype Samsung flexible OLED screens on show at FPD International in Japan on Nov. 10, 2010

Prototype Samsung flexible OLED screens on show at FPD International in Japan on Nov. 10, 2010

Samsung Electronics and LG Display have developed prototype flexible displays that can be gently bent while continuing to show images. The displays are the latest in a line of research projects from major display makers that point to growing interest in screens that can be bent, curved or flexed.

Samsung's screens are based on OLED (organic light emitting diode) and LG Display's screen is an e-paper display. Both are on show at this week's FPD International event in Japan. (See video of the screens on YouTube.)

Both display technologies are good candidates to be made flexible because they don't rely on a backlight unit.

In LCDs (liquid crystal display), such as those in laptops and TVs, a unit behind the screen shines light through it so its image is visible. Making a flexible LCD would mean developing both a screen and backlight unit that can be flexed.

OLEDs contain an organic material in each pixel that generates light when an electrical charge is applied, while e-paper relies on reflected ambient light.

Samsung's prototype flexible OLED screens were on show in two sizes: a 4.5-inch screen with 480 pixels by 800 pixels resolution, and a 2.8-inch screen with 240 pixels by 400 pixels resolution.

They were displayed inside rigid plastic cases that kept the screens curved. One was held in an "S" shape while another was curved through 180 degrees. Like other OLED screens, both displayed bright and vivid images with good color reproduction.

The LG e-paper screen was a 19-inch model. It was demonstrated gently flexing while the image was shown on screen and appeared to show no signs of trouble dealing with the movement.

Engineers envisage one day being able to make e-paper screens that are paper-thin and can be rolled up and pushed into bags or briefcases. The LG screens show there's a long way to go before that's possible, but the first steps towards that goal have already been taken.

The companies didn't say when either would be commercially available.

Martyn Williams covers Japan and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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