Minority Report e-newspapers on horizon as ultra-thin touchscreens invented

Sarah Knapton
The ultra-thin material is bendy and could be made into flexible newspapers - RMIT University

Thin touchscreen newspapers which flash up breaking news and can be rolled away, like in the films Minority Report and Harry Potter, are on the horizon after a breakthrough by scientists.

In the 2002 Steven Spielberg Movie, Tom Cruise is forced to make a speedy getaway when his face appears on the front page of a futuristic e-paper being read by a commuter.

Likewise moving newspapers have also featured in Harry Potter, but until now scientists did not think touchscreens would ever be small enough to make the idea a reality.

Now material scientists at Monash University in Melbourne have developed an ultra-thin and ultra-flexible electronic material that is 100 times thinner than existing touchscreens and can be rolled up.

An e-newspaper from the film Minority Report based on Philip K Dick's short story 

The nano-thin sheets could be manufactured through roll-to-roll processing just like a newsprint and it could also stop the need for brittle phone screens whcih smash easily. 

Lead researcher Dr Torben Daeneke said “You can bend it, you can twist it, and you could make it far more cheaply and efficiently that the slow and expensive way that we currently manufacture touchscreens.

“There's no other way of making this fully flexible, conductive and transparent material aside from our new liquid metal method.

“It was impossible up to now - people just assumed that it couldn't be done.”

To create the new material, the team heated an indium-tin alloy to 200C, so that it became liquid, before rolling it over a surface to print off nano-thin sheets.

The research team have now used the new material to create a working touchscreen, as a proof-of-concept, and have applied for a patent for the technology.

The material could also be used in other applications, such solar cells and smart windows.

“We're excited to be at the stage now where we can explore commercial collaboration opportunities and work with the relevant industries to bring this technology to market,” added Dr Daeneke.

Details of the new material were published in the journal Nature Electronics.