The New Plastic Revolution

electronic paperThe writing’s on the wall. Well, it really will be, and in several other places. The revolution’s very nearly here, you see. We’re on the cusp of it. It’s been talked about before, but it’s really here. Within a year or few we’ll be carrying around completely new devices based on this technology, and there’ll be all sorts of things in the household and office. You may have heard the buzz, but if not, I’ll say it here too. It’s all about microscopic electronic circuitry based on polymers that conduct electricity. The novelty here is the plastic nature of the resulting circuitry and devices that you can build, where I am using the word “plastic” in its descriptive sense – it is flexible and can take lots of shapes quite readily.

There’s a revolution on the cusp, not because this is hugely new (it is not, and the basic science itself is quite old by electronics technology timelines), but because it has got to the stage where factories are being set up to manufacture large amounts of basic components, it seems. That’s quite a major milestone, in my view. Of course, the companies involved are making a big deal about it – and I’m doing their bidding by telling you about their little press bubble.

electronic paperCynicism aside, I do think that it is significant enough to watch the wave approaching from afar before it splashes over us. The most celebrated application will be large sheets of electronic displays – electronic paper – such as the ones depicted in the images here, but you can also imagine touch-activated controllers woven into fabrics, and information displays pasted onto all sorts of shapes – everywhere.

Just so you can get up to speed on it fast, the BBC have produced a little information page on the technology, focusing on the firm Plastic Logic (whose promotional pictures I’ve borrowed from their site) who are racing to build the first factory dedicated to all of this. Go and have a read of it. I do think that this might all come to us rather rapidly now that this stage has been reached, don’t you? Hang on to your hats!


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