Taiwan researchers turn to silk for flexible e-devices

Liquid silk membranes can help e-readers bend, and they're inexpensive, National Tsing Hua University says

Researchers at a Taiwan university said on Thursday they had found a way to use silk membranes in flexible electronic devices and started talks with manufacturers about adopting the unusual but cheap material.

After less than two years of study motivated by news that silk had untapped properties, an engineering professor and two post-graduate students at Taiwan's National Tsing Hua University figured out how to use the soft, low-cost material for flexible e-book readers, LED displays and radio-frequency identification tools.

The technology turns liquid silk into membranes that work as insulators for flexible thin-film transistors, a component of bendable electronics, said the professor, Hwang Jenn-Chang. Those membranes may even improve the speed and performance of a device's transistors.

National Tsing Hua University is located in Hsinchu, often called the Silicon Valley of Taiwan because it is home to a number of technology manufacturers. Silk, a natural protein fiber normally used in textiles, can be easily purchased on the island. The material would cost about NT$10 (about US$0.03) per device.

"We didn't know at first that it would be the best material, but after a few months of tests we realized it was quite viable," Hwang said. "No one else has thought to try this, or at least no one else has succeeded."

As companies such as Archos and Asustek Computer introduce new e-reader models to compete with Amazon's latest Kindle, and as prices fall with the rise in market entries, designers are likely to be sniffing around for new materials.

Accordingly, Tsing Hua's researchers are talking with manufacturers about putting their discovery to commercial use, Hwang said.

Academic researchers in Taiwan have also produced a face-recognition vending machine, one of the world's fastest supercomputers and a webcam-mounted laptop antenna for scanning library documents. Some of the island's inventions are mass-produced by the makers of PCs or consumer electronics.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags consumer electronicstaiwane-readersamazon.comArchosAsustek ComputerNational Tsing Hua University

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ralph Jennings

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?