In the race for ever-thinner displays for TVs, cell phones and other gadgets, Sony may have developed one to beat them all — a razor-thin display that bends like paper while showing full-color video.
Sony Corp. released video of the new 2.5-inch display Friday. In it, a hand squeezes a display that is 0.3 millimeters, or 0.01 inch, thick. The display shows color images of a bicyclist stuntman and a picturesque lake.
Although flat-panel TVs are getting slimmer, a display that's so thin it bends in a human hand marks a breakthrough.
Sony said it has yet to decide on commercial products using the technology.
"In the future, it could get wrapped around a lamppost or a person's wrist, even worn as clothing," said Sony spokesman Chisato Kitsukawa. "Perhaps it can be put up like wallpaper."
Tatsuo Mori, an engineering and computer science professor at Nagoya University, said some hurdles remained, including making the display bigger, ensuring durability and cutting costs.
But he said the display's pliancy is extremely difficult to imitate with liquid crystal displays and plasma display panels — the two main display technologies now on the market.
"To come up with a flexible screen at that image quality is groundbreaking," Mori said. "You can drop it, and it won't break because it's as thin as paper."
The new display combines two technologies: Sony's organic thin film transistor, which is required to make flexible displays, and organic electroluminescent display.
Other companies, including LG. Philips LCD Co. and Seiko Epson Corp., are also working on a different kind of "electronic paper" technology, but Sony said the organic electroluminescent display delivers better color images and is more suited for video.
Sony President Ryoji Chubachi has said a film-like display is a major technology his company is working on to boost its status as a technological powerhouse.
In a meeting with reporters more than a year ago, Chubachi boasted Sony was working on a technology for displays so thin it could be rolled up like paper. He had predicted that the world would stand up and take notice.
Some analysts have said Sony, which makes Walkman portable players and PlayStation 3 video game machines, had fallen behind rivals in flat-panel technology, including Samsung Electronics Co. of South Korea and Sharp Corp. of Japan.
But Sony has been marking a turnaround under Chubachi and Chief Executive Howard Stringer, the first foreigner to head Sony, by reducing jobs, shuttering unprofitable businesses and strengthening its flat TV offerings.