Local research may lead to flexible TVs

Justin Armburger

Kent State, University of Akron work with companies, research organizations on new technology

With today’s scientific advances, such as the liquid crystal display television, it can be difficult to see how much further technology can advance. But a TV that could be rolled up like a poster then placed on the wall may be the next step.

With recent help from a state-funded program, technology such as a flexible display TV is not as far-fetched as it seems, and that research may happen here at Kent State.

Located in the former Kent State bus garage, Centennial Research Park, which opened in June, is a 44,000-square-foot facility with 10 acres of undeveloped land to be used for researching the possibilities of flexible displays.

John West, vice president for research and dean of graduate studies, and President Lester Lefton are the two main people who pushed this research park along.

“I would say (West) initiated the project in terms of the FlexMatters Accelerator project,” said Patricia Book, vice president for regional development.

FlexMatters, the anchor tenant at the new facility, is a broad, public-private high-technology collaboration, she said.

“When President Lefton came on board, he very much embraced the mission of the public research university and saw the opportunity to embed FlexMatters in a bigger vision,” Book said.

FlexMatters, which consists of Kent State, the University of Akron and companies such as NorTech, Kent Displays and AlphaMicron, is working to help companies develop flexible liquid crystal displays.

Through support from the Ohio Third Frontier Program, whose goal is to expand Ohio’s high-tech research capabilities, West said Kent State has received close to $1 million specifically for FlexMatters Accelerator.

West said with all the companies in the area being involved with liquid crystal displays, the new facility is a good location for research.

“We’ve been looking at providing a location for high-tech industry to grow,” he said.

With Kent State’s research in liquid crystals, and the University of Akron’s polymer research, West said the goal is to keep the research and manufacturing of flexible displays around northeast Ohio.

Rigid LCDs used in computer monitors and televisions are made in Asia, but the manufacturing of flexible displays is open to anyone.

For Kent Displays President Joel Domino, the facility is really an extension of all the work concerning liquid crystal displays in the area.

“The goal has been to build a mass of companies around the Liquid Crystal Institute and to give graduates a place to work,” Domino said.

Book said the facility’s success is all about partnerships.

“Win-win partnerships,” she said, “with mutual benefits for us, the faculty and the students.”

Currently, there is no TV that can roll down like a screen. But, West said with the development of flexible displays, this invention, as well as others, is not unthinkable.

“Some things that could be done with flexible displays in the future can be changeable or responsive wallpaper,” West said. “Even clothing one day could even be made out of it. Imagine having your cell phone built into the inside of your jacket.”

Contact science reporter Justin Armburger at [email protected].