A look at what – and who – is pushing the future in new directions

Start the Presses! Copper Nanowires Enable Bendable Displays, Solar Cells

Tiny copper wires can be built in bulk and then “printed” on a surface to conduct current, transparently. | Benjamin Wiley, Duke Chemistry

DURHAM, N.C. – A team of Duke University chemists has perfected a simple way to make tiny copper nanowires in quantity. The cheap conductors are small enough to be transparent, making them ideal for thin-film solar cells, flat-screen TVs and computers, and flexible displays.

“Imagine a foldable iPad,” said Benjamin Wiley, an assistant professor of chemistry at Duke. His team reports its findings online this week in  Advanced Materials.

…“If we are going to have these ubiquitous electronics and solar cells,” Wiley said, “we need to use materials that are abundant in the earth’s crust and don’t take much energy to extract.” He points out that there are very few materials that are known to be both transparent and conductive..

…“We think that using a material that is a hundred times cheaper will be even more attractive to venture capitalists, electronic companies and solar companies who all need these transparent electrodes,” he said.

I’m a bit of a geek, so I find this kind of news tres, tres exciting (and for those of you who like to dig into the science of it, as I do, you can read the full article at Duke News).

This research suggests a future in which the following is highly probable:

  • Electronic displays can be printed out in roll-to-roll fashion, much like newspapers are
  • And, just like the newspaper, you can fold it up and put it in your back pocket and train your dog to bring it to you along with your slippers (though probably not advisable)
  • Other thin-film conducting materials, such as solar cells, can also be printed on this copper nanowire material. I imagine that all these cool, bendable electronics will include solar-charging batteries as well.

The smartphone was the beginning of personal, portable screens. The iPad (and the soon-to-be ubiquitous tablet) is the second generation. My bet is that the flexible screen, such as this technology will allow, will usher in the 3rd generation of personal computer. And since they’ll be able to connect with large screen devices at home and work, and access files and applications stored in ‘the cloud’ (mega servers; or on your personal servers), I’m also betting that netbooks, laptops, and desktops will be “sooo first decade (2000-2010)!”

Article By: Cecily Sommers

Leave a Reply

blog comments powered by Disqus