Plasma and direct-view LCDs use glass substrates. Glass is relatively fragile, and the sheets used in LCD panel production are special and expensive. So manufacturers are searching for alternatives. One problem for LCDs and OLEDs is that they require a semiconductor layer on the substrate in order to create the transistors that will switch the pixels on and off. Amorphous silicon is used almost universally, and plastic substrates generally are not suitable for this coating.
The Mitsubishi Chemical Group Science and Technology Research Center has announced the development of a new coating that can be disolved in a liquid and coated on a variety of substrates other than glass. It also has about the same semiconductor properties as amorphous silicon, so it should work with existing display technologies. And it can be patterned using lasers, rather than the expensive and tricky photolithography masks used on amorphous silicon on glass substrates. This could result in lower fabrication costs.
It will be a while before this new technology could have any impact. Target use in “practical” applications is not until the end of 2008. But it’s developments like this that will make the next generations of television displays possible.