The Future is Here: Paper-Thin Smartphones!

paperthin_smartphoneAt last years Consumer Electronics show, the AMOLED flexible display concept was a huge hit. AMOLED – which stands for active-matrix organic light-emitting diode – is new a display technology that utilizes both organic compounds and an active matrix to form electroluminescent material and address pixels. But what is truly awesome about it is how it allows for displays that are both and flexible.

In the wake of that show, many developers have been presenting some cutting edge technologies and concepts that are still in development, but which build on the technology and are expected to be available within a few years time. One such concept comes from a collaborative group composed of researchers from Queens University’s Human Media Lab and the Motivational Environments Research Group from Arizona State. Their concept: the PaperPhone!

Like the Nokia Kinetic concept, a user is able to control through a series of bending and flexing gestures. The device’s internal circuit memorizes these gestures and responds accordingly whenever they are repeated. Ergo, if you register that earmarking is the command for making a call, the paper-thin phone will bring up a call prompt whenever you bend the corner. In addition, mp3’s will be available on the device, and presumably, internet access.

Paper-Thin-Pamphlet-Smartphone-Concept-2In addition to its ultra-thin profile, flexible nature and smartphone functions, this proposed design represents a growing trend in personal digital devices, which is towards the organic. In terms of design, interface and assembly, the eventual goal is devices that will be indistinguishable from organics. This could take the form of machinery composed of entirely out of “smart” DNA – aka. programmable biological cells –  hybrid devices that utilize organic compounds, and even machinery assembled by DNA structures.

Sure, this may seem like a long way from that eventual, lofty goal, but its certainly a step in that direction. And if technology can and will be manufactured with organic materials, there’s even a chance it could be used as biowaste when we’re done with them. Maybe even compost, assuming they can break down into soil-enriching organic compounds.

Keep your eyes open for more breakthroughs, they are sure to be coming soon. And while you’re at it, check out of the video of the PaperPhone in action!

Microchips Made With DNA!

It seems IBM is deep at work developing a revolutionary new method for assembling microchips. This process will involve using self-assembled DNA nanostructures to create microchips and chip components. Or, to put it more dramatically, DNA would be used as a sort of “origami”, serving as a sort of scaffolding in the arrangement of nanotubes and allowing the company to develop microchips that are smaller and much less expensive to produce.

But of course, the long-term goal is much more ambitious. According to Greg Wallraff, a scientist working with IBM, the “goal is to use these structures to assemble carbon nanontubes, silicon nanowires, quantum dots. What we are really making are tiny DNA circuit boards that will be used to assemble other components.” In short, this could be not only a step towards bioassembly, nanotechnology, and even quantum computing.

For some time now, scientists have been experimenting with DNA as an assembler for microcircuits. One such individual is Paul W. K. Rothemund, a research associate at the California Institute of Technology, who developed DNA origami back in 2006. This involved taking a long strand of viral DNA, putting into a 2 or 3-D shape, and then holding it together with shorter strands of DNA. In this way, he was able to create shapes such as triangles, stars and smiley faces, according to his Caltech Web site.

Based on this process, complex DNA nanostructures are made in solution and then applied to surfaces which have designated “sticky spots” to ensure that they hold a specific configuration. Once the scaffold is in place, molecules of polymer, metal and other materials can then be guided into place, assembled from the cellular level outward. According to Rothemund, there are still some problems that need to be worked out and it is likely to be another 10 years before the process is entirely viable.

Still, for enthusiasts of bioware, biotech, and nanotechnology, this is exciting news. To know that we could be just ten years away from components assembled by nanostructures composed of living material, a stepping stone towards machinery composed entirely of DNA structures or nanomachines themselves… like I said, exciting!