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Samsung eyes flexible gadget screens by early 2012

Samsung eyes flexible gadget screens by early 2012

Posting in Architecture

Electronics giant will make bendable phones first, followed by tablets and other devices, presumably using OLEDs. Is the technology poised to soon overhaul architecture and design as well?

One of the promises of the energy-efficient light emitting diode (LED) industry is that it will develop sturdy bendable material that is itself a light source.

The industry today delivers these so-called organic LEDs (OLEDs) in rigid form. A manufacturer might typically layer a thin, luminescent OLED material onto a sheet of glass to make a display for a TV or mobile phone, or to embed in a designer glass table top for a soft lighting effect.

But a flexible OLED material that could stand under its own weight has the potential to overhaul the precepts of everything from gadgets and TVs to architecture, furniture and lighting design.

Electronics giant Samsung might be close to cracking the challenge. According to news service IDG, it said during a recent earnings call that it will deliver a mobile phone with a flexible screen next year.

"The flexible display, we are looking to introduce sometime in 2012, hopefully the earlier part," spokesman Robert Yi said. "The application probably will start from the handset side."

Samsung would subsequently build the flexible screens into tablet computers and other devices, IDG said. Flexible screens portend devices with greater portability and compactness. The S. Korean company showed a flexible screen housed inside a rigid phone at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last January

Rival phone maker Nokia recently showed off a prototype bendable smartphone that some people have referred to as a “kinetic device".

Yi did not describe the exact technology that Samsung will use. The company already uses a rigid OLED technology called AMOLED (the “AM” is for “active-matrix”) in many of its phones and cameras, including in its popular Galaxy line of smartphones.

Early this year, it acquired Holland’s Liquavista, a Philips spin off that specializes in electronic screens and uses a technology called electrowetting to improve brightness, color and power consumption.

OLEDs could also transform the world of modern construction, interior design and outdoor lighting, as the fabric of furniture and building structures could be made out of light sources. It could all help to fashionably reduce the world's CO2 footprint, as LEDs require about 20 percent of the electricity of incandescent bulbs.

Photo: Wohlschlegelm via Wikimedia

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Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure