Washington, July 1 : Robot 'skin', flexible laptops and electric posters, all made from plastic may soon be a reality, thanks to the advance in research into "plastic electronics".
Plastic has long been thought of as an insulating material that could not conduct electricity, but ground-breaking research in the 1970s proved that some plastics could do so.
Now, some of the potential applications of these breakthrough materials - electronic billboards, flexible laptops, high-definition television screens only one centimetre thick - are coming to light.
All this has Marianna Khorzov and David Andelman, from the School of Physics and Astronomy at Tel Aviv University, and Rafi Shikler, from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Ben Gurion University, believing that plastic-based transistors and organic light-emitting displays will soon be rocking the electronics market.
Transistors, the fundamental building block in modern electronic devices, are traditionally made of silicon. Plastic-based transistors however are easier and cheaper to manufacture than their silicon equivalent. And because plastic is flexible, the world could also soon see ultrathin, flexible laptops.
Other exciting developments are likely to be in the field of bionics, including the development of materials sensitive but flexible enough to replicate skin, which could be used by robots in situations where a sense of touch is crucial.
"We expect that, for many applications, these materials will gradually replace silicon and metals, and they may even make possible entirely new technologies, particularly in the field of bionics, which seeks to link up technology with biological systems," wrote the researchers.
The details of these advances are published in the recent edition of Physics World.