Flexible displays remain an elusive but appealing concept. Universal Display Corporation is one of the leading developers of OLED technology, and they recently demonstrated a display fabricated on metal foil. OLEDs emit light like a standard picture-tube CRT television, so there are no viewing angle limitations or pixel response speed problems that you get with LCDs. The problem is that the OLED materials are destroyed by water vapor or oxygen, so the displays must be tightly sealed.
UDC’s demonstration panel uses metal foil for the back layer, which is an excellent barrier for water and air. Most OLEDs use a glass top layer to seal the display side, but glass is not flexible enough. So UDC used a new material named Barix, a clear coating that is deposited directly on the OLED surface. The result is a display that is one-fifteenth as thick as a typical LCD, and weighs about one sixth as much. And is flexible.
This is still just a technology demonstration, but it’s impressive nonetheless. I don’t expect to see this to be in production any time soon, but I do expect that we’ll see emissive displays that roll up like window shades within the next 10 years. Maybe sooner.