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Roll up your monitor and take it with you
Bayer physicist - Dr. Andreas Eischner with a fully operational prototype diode, used for test purposes.
Photo courtesy: Bayer AG

Off on a family holiday... Mom and Dad in the front of the car, kids in the back, happily watching TV. TV? Mounted on the back of the front seat is a wafer thin screen on which watch their favorite cartoon characters. Once they arrive at their hotel, Dad removes the screen, rolls it up and once inside, pins it on the hotel room wall and the show goes on.

Science fiction? In the foreseeable future it will be science fact. Conventional construction of TV screens, monitors and displays could soon become a thing of the past.

The key to this revolution is organic light-emitting diodes and a new material developed by scientists at Bayer, the chemicals and health care group called Baytron P. Baytron P is an electrically conductive plastic which considerably extends the working life of the diodes and also has made it possible to make screens so thin and flexible that they can be rolled up when needed.

The phenomenon of electrically luminescent organic materials (extremely delicate structures which light up when electrical voltage is applied) has been known for over half a century. But the material used then proved to be too unstable and the light yield was so low that no thought was given to any practical applications.

Then five years ago Bayer scientist Rolf Wehrmann and his colleagues made the breakthrough. They had been given the task of finding organic substances from which light-emitting, wafer-thin and flexible film could be made. The objective was to make flat screens which are no longer dependent on projection from the back as the text and pictures appear, thanks to the organic diodes.

The transparent Baytron P they developed, increases the working life of light-emitting diodes dramatically. A 10,000 hour, non-stop test of the brightness of a computer monitor was passed with ease. "Baytron P was a quantum leap in the development of displays made with organic materials," says Wehrmann.

He is not alone in his opinion. Already electronics giants such as Philips are using Baytron P to develop the screens of tomorrows, super-thin screens, made entirely of plastic, and safe because of the low voltage used. And the optical characteristics are outstanding, high contrast, no reflection and capable of being viewed from a very oblique angle.

The first telephones with the new displays are already in the market. Video recorders, cellular phones, watches and CD player will follow soon. In the longer term Philips plans to add navigation systems and car instrument panels to the range of applications.

And the TV screen at the back of the family car? "We should be there in 10 years," Philips' Jan Robert Visser confidently predicts.

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