Plastic semiconductors have already found their way into a number of electronic gadgets, providing displays that are bright and easy to read even in direct sunlight. But efforts to make larger plastic displays–say, a computer monitor that rolls up and slides into your bag-have hit a roadblock: the electronic circuitry that drives their colorful pixels consumes too much power, and existing materials don’t print well onto large sheets of plastic.
Working at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, NJ, Ashok Maliakal has homed in on this problem. One major challenge, he says, was to improve the circuits’ gate dielectric-the insulating layer that enables their transistors to switch properly from “on” to “off.”
The titanium dioxide boosts the material’s insulating properties, while the polymer makes it easy to print. Prototype circuits made with the material operate at one-third the voltage of those made with the polymer alone. That could mean displays that consume a lot less power. If Maliakal can incorporate his material into a mass-printing process, a new generation of flexible displays will be ready to roll.