Researchers at Cambridge University are in the process of developing plastic microchip technology that could lead to a new generation of low-cost smart appliances.
Plastic Logic, the company behind the project, says it has developed and patented a method of printing plastic onto a polymer substrate, making cheap and flexible plastic transistors. It hopes to demonstrate commercial prototypes next summer.
Cheap plastic transistors would allow large TFT (Thin Film Transistor) flat panel displays, which use one transistor per pixel, to be produced cheaply. Plastic microchips could also be applied to everyday items, such as clothing or price tags, turning them into smart appliances that can carry out computing tasks.
Plastic Logic is funded by venture capitalists Amadeus Capital Partner and is headed up by Hermann Hauser, co-founder of Acorn Computers. “This is a company with truly disruptive technology that could help create huge new markets of ‘things that think’,” Hauser said. At the moment, computer semiconductors are based on silicon, which means they are more expensive because of a complicated manufacturing process.
Microchips based on plastic would be simpler and cheaper to produce while a plant for manufacturing silicon microprocessors costs billions to build, Plastic Logic estimates that a plastic microchip plant would be a hundred times cheaper to set up.