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Samsung unveils largest flexible LCD

Here's an LCD screen you can curl up. It's made of plastic rather than glass.

Samsung Electronics has created a flexible LCD screen that measures 7 inches diagonally, another technology that may one day be used in products such as e-books.

The display is functionally similar to the LCD (liquid crystal display) panels used inside TVs and notebooks, but with a crucial difference. Instead of containing glass substrates, the screen features a substrate of flexible plastic, allowing the display to bend. The plastic will not break when flexed, according to Samsung, and its pliancy paves the way for flexible color screens.

The new screen, which sports a resolution of 640 pixels by 480 pixels, has twice the surface area of another prototype shown off in January.

Samsung's flexible LCD

The flexible screens rely on a low-temperature manufacturing process for transistors, developed by Samsung, that does not melt or distort the plastic substrate.

Several different technologies are vying to become a standard for the flexible and low-energy screens that will be found in a range of consumer devices. Philips and start-up E Ink are promoting a display in which black-and-white microcapsules embedded in a screen flip to create words. Unlike an LCD, E Ink's displays do not require a backlight and are therefore more energy-efficient. Sony has adopted the screens for an electronic book.

Other companies, meanwhile, tout organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), which also consume less energy than LCDs.

Samsung is pouring money into OLEDs and has included the technology in some of its cell phones and in prototype TVs. OLED, though, remains a relatively new technology, and questions about brightness, durability and functionality remain.

By contrast, the properties of LCDs are well-known.

The flexible LCD panel was developed under a three-year program funded by Samsung and the Korean Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy.