We've seen pictures like the one above for a number of years now, but the dream of having a flexible display on our phones or other smart devices seemed years away at the time. It was way back in the beginning of 2012 that Samsung first introduced its YOUM flexible display line, pictured above, but that display line has yet to really make an appearance in the way we thought it would. Sure we got the Galaxy Round out of Samsung and the upcoming Gear Fit, but it was LG that really packed a more interesting punch with the G Flex, as that phone can actually be bent to a certain degree without having any sorts of issues. Now researchers from Dutch electronics giant Philips have teamed up with British academic researchers and have apparently made a serious breakthrough in the transistors required to power these types of displays and make them viable for mass production. This research isn't something that was started recently though, rather it's been going on for the past two decades and is only now finally coming to fruition. The new source-gated transistor (SGT) is the new type of transistor we're talking about here, and it basically works by controlling the electric current just as it enters the semiconductor. The way this has been fabricated allows for lower energy usage and therefore lower risks of malfunction, both of which have been issues with flexible displays for mass production. Lead researcher on the project, Radu Sporea, had this to say about the breakthrough:
"These technologies involve thin plastic sheets of electronic circuits, similar to sheets of paper, but embedded with smart technologies. Until now, such technologies could only be produced reliably in small quantities, and that confined them to the research lab. However, with SGTs we have shown we can achieve some characteristics needed to make these technologies viable, without increasing the complexity or cost of the design."
We've known for some time now just how much this type of technology can change the way we see and think of mobile technology. Right now we worry about covering up our phones with thick cases so that they don't break when dropped or get scuffed when put in our pockets with our keys and such. Using this flexible technology with something like what LG coats the back of the LG G Flex in, a self healing material for those who haven't heard of it before, could make our phones seemingly indestructible. That's not the only use-case scenario for them either, as this type of technology could even significantly reduce the cost of devices if used properly, and further could bring new sorts of health sensors and other new electronics not even thought of yet. Likely we won't see anything come out of this until 2015 at the earliest, as product cycles are usually at least 6 months to a year long, but next year's next big thing could be something truly astounding and revolutionary, not just evolutionary as we've seen recently with mobile devices.