China to rival S Korea in R&D, production of flexible displays

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A researcher showcases a flexible display panel made by Beijing-based tech company BOE. Photo: Handout

The Chinese Academy of Science announced this week the invention of a room-temperature ductile inorganic semiconductor, claiming its scientists had mounted a big technical hurdle toward mass-producing flexible and foldable displays.

The new inorganic semiconductor, named α-Ag2S, exhibited extraordinary metal-like ductility with high deformation residence and structural integrity even at room temperature, according to a paper submitted to scientific journal Nature Materials.

“Our work opens up the possibility of a new search for ductile inorganic semiconductors/ceramics for flexible electronic devices,” the paper said.

South Korean companies such as Samsung and LG enjoy a monopoly on new display-panel technology such as organic light-emitting diodes and curved and flexible display components, which are marketed with a fat mark-up to off-stream producers. 

It’s reported that Beijing invited Samsung to set up a joint venture in China to produce new display panels, but before long Seoul added advanced display panels and components to its list of goods and technologies restricted from being transferred overseas. 

Xinhua also reported in 2017 that a subsidiary of the Shenzhen-based display and home appliance maker TCL Corp had splurged some US$5 billion and started building China’s first production line of flexible displays for bracelet-shaped mobile phones and folding tablets. 

Beijing-based electronic firm BOE has also started shipping soft displays, based on the active-matrix organic light-emitting diode (AMOLED) technology that has already been in wide use in smartphones and other gadgets. BOE is poised to challenge the stronghold of Korean suppliers.

Xinhua said these companies would join forces to formulate Chinese standards in flexible displays and promote the technologies through experience centers of prototypes of foldable tablets and phones. 

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