You can roll up your TV

Currently you can carry your TV in your hand as you travel. Of course, the screen size of your smartphone may not be as big as the TV in your living room. The day may not be far off when you could just roll up your large-screen TV, put it under your arm and walk out of your room.

LG has demonstrated a completely flexible large-scale display of size 18 inches. The display is flexible to the extent of being rolled up into a 3 cm scroll for transport. You can unfurl the transparent display, hang it on the wall, lay it flat on a desktop or mount it in a conventional frame. LG is confident of unfurling a 60-inch variant of the display by 2017 and promised that they will give it even higher transmittance.

NPD DisplaySearch of LG has been working for some time now to produce displays on flexible substrates culminating in the commercialization of the flexible 18-inch large-scale display. They plan to bring out smaller flexible displays over the next couple of years. Although these may be of the size used in smart watches, they will be one-time flexible until put behind a curved glass cover. However, to have them flex in any shape at any time is still some way off.

Flexible displays are usually made from organic light emitting diodes (OLED). These are deposited on a transparent substrate. Since they do not require a backlight, they can display graphics such as schematics in mid-air, being visible from both sides. LG successfully demonstrated this mid-air display capability while at the same time proved that they have mastered the basic technologies behind manufacturing rollable transparent displays.

However, commercialization of the technology still faces substantial hurdles. The OLED needs to be protected from oxygen and moisture – both of these reduce the life of the display. LG expects active OLED will bring in revenues to the extent of $23 billion by 2020, coming mostly from mobile phones and smartwatches with flexed and fixed displays. However, there are production challenges yet to be solved. Protecting a display from the environment is no big deal as encapsulating a curved display can be fixed in glass and metal. However, a backplane is yet to be developed that will reliably prevent damage to the OLEDs while remaining sufficiently flexible.

If you have visited the IMAX Theater, you can appreciate the wraparound immersive experience that a flexible display brings. Apart from making mobile devices easier to carry, the curved screen technology can provide auxiliary screens that help to transport and display large diagrams such as building schematics and blueprints.

LG’s 18-inch prototype has a configuration of 1200×800 with nearly one million pixels. It has a curvature radius of 30R, meaning you can roll it into a scroll of a little over an inch, while it is still working and there will be no damage to the display. LG is planning for a 60-inch display with an increased curvature radius of 50R.

If LG succeeds in developing the transparent polyimide backplane for the display, someday, refrigerators will have transparent doors so you could see the food inside, while reading the temperature and seeing advertisements.