Ultra thin glass could yield next gen flexible displays

Ultra thin glass could yield next gen flexible displays
A new type of ultra slim glass that can be 'wrapped' around devices such as smartphones and tablets been unveiled by New York firm Corning.

Dubbed Willow Glass, the material can be processed at temperatures up to 500°C and could enable the electronics industry to pursue high temperature, continuous roll to roll processes that have not been previously been possible.

According to Corning, Willow Glass will support thinner backplanes and colour filters for oleds and lcds in high performance portable devices such as smartphones, tablets and notebook computers. It could also help develop conformable (curved) displays for immersive viewing or mounting on non flat surfaces.

The material is formulated to perform exceptionally well for electronic components such as touch sensors, as well as leveraging glass's natural hermetic properties as a seal for oled displays and other moisture and oxygen sensitive technologies.

"Displays become more pervasive each day and manufacturers strive to make both portable devices and larger displays thinner," said Dr Dipak Chowdhury, Willow Glass programme director. "Willow Glass provides the substrate performance to maintain device quality in a thin and light form factor. Currently manufacturing in a sheet to sheet process, we expect it to eventually allow customers to switch to high throughput, efficient roll to roll processing, a long awaited industry milestone."

Willow Glass is produced using the company's proprietary fusion process, allowing it to maintain a thickness of just 100 microns – the same as a sheet of paper. Even at this thickness it is said to provide excellent optical, thermal and surface properties.

Corning is currently shipping samples of its Willow Glass to customers developing new display and touch applications. The company is also collaborating with research institutions, customers, and equipment makers to develop an ecosystem of compatible process equipment, including optimised process design.

Although initially being launched as an advanced display substrate, the company is actively working on other potential applications for Willow Glass, including use in lighting and flexible solar cells.

"Corning will continue to develop and improve innovative glass products to enable the high performance, game changing displays that will drive tomorrow's increasingly diverse electronics markets," Chowdhury concluded.

Laura Hopperton

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