Stop the Presses! Newspapers of the Future

By: Sara Chauvette

Photo Credit: Zhang et al.

Engineers in China and Hong Kong have manufactured an interesting new LCD screen that is paper-thin, light and flexible yet tough. Could this really be the future of newspapers? Scientists seem to think so. This new screen can easily be updated quickly and therefore makes it re-usable. Your daily comics and breaking news stories all in the palm of your hand literally!

There are 3 innovations that these scientists have produced. The first one being that unlike conventional liquid crystals where electrical connections on the plates create the fields required to switch individual pixels from light to dark, optically rewritable LCDs coat the plates with special molecules that realign in the presence of polarized light and switch the pixels. Which on its own is quite an advancement but developing a new type of spacer to allow for flexibility and keep the liquid crystals uniform is equally impressive. The new mesh-like spacer prevented liquid crystals from flowing when their LCD was bent or hit. Lastly the scientists report that until this study, optically rewritable LCDs had only been able to display two colors at a time. Now, their optically rewritable LCD displays the three primary colors.

Rewritable LCDs are durable and cheap to manufacture. Like an electronic paper screen in an e-book, energy is only required to switch display images or text. Therefore, running costs are low because power is not needed to sustain an image once it is written on the screen. Scientists are thinking it should cost approximately $5 to manufacture the 5 Inch screens. It’s beginning to look like the days of the printing press are numbered.