Plastic computers are the talk of the town as some designers look to flexible displays and low-power computing devices. Theoretically, it is possible to create these devices, and much of the logic is already there. However, important parts of basic computing such as reading data, writing data, and power management still need to be worked out. Have they been conquered?
Now, plastic computing is one step closer thanks to researchers from the University of Iowa. In collaboration with researchers from New York University, the team has put together a research paper published in Nature Communications. The paper brings us one step closer to plastic computers by describing a method to convert magnetic storage data into optical transmission data.
The method described within the paper uses the magnetic fields of the storage itself to directly modify light emitted from an organic light emitting diode (OLED). Traditionally, converting the magnetic data to optical data would require lots of energy. However, the researchers were able to devise a method for converting the data, which does not use any additional energy. From their work they have found that the magnetic field of the storage produces enough energy to excite an OLED and consequently produce photons.
Current methods used for data transfer in silicon computers would be too inefficient for their plastic counterparts. In addition, converting magnetic storage data into optical transmission data allows the data transmission process to be highly energy efficient. Therefore, the technique of converting magnetic data to optical transmission data seems to be the most optimal solution.
Not all computers will be made of plastic components in the future. Instead, plastic components have an advantage for certain applications. For example, it has already been shown that there is a need for flexible electronics. These consist of organic electronic components such as OLEDs and organic field effect transistors (OFET). While they do not possess the high performance characteristics of silicon components, they can offer ultra-low-power consumption or the possibility of cheap "throw away" electronics.
While there is still much research to be done regarding plastic computers, reading data from magnetic storage is a big step forward. The team also noted that the studies were conducted on a large devices. So testing will still need to be done on smaller devices. However, the team remains optimistic that they will see consistent results.