Wouldn’t it be great if your milk could tell you that it has gone bad, so that you can avoid a chunky glass of grossness? Well, Finnish physics grad student Daniel Torbjork may soon make that a reality, by placing electronic sensors in paper. The technology could not only tell you when food is spoiled, but Torbjork forsees interactive magazines, with videos and games right between the pages.
Aside from milk and magazines, electronic paper could also provide extremely lightweight and compact information storage, sensors and more importantly, energy storage devices. The flexibility of paper, combined with the inexpensive price tag and ability to be recycled makes electronically sensored paper an attractive consumer product.
But some are skeptical that electronic paper is even a possibility- at least to be commercially available in the next ten years or so, finding that research in glass, plastic and metals are more worthwhile. The major hurdle that Torbjork is facing now is the properties of paper’s surface. Roughness, porosity and chemical impurities make paper somewhat unstable for implanting sensors within.
However, Torbjork is not discouraged, as technology has already been invented embedding electronic chips in bank notes, as well as solar cells in folded paper. Along with professor Ronald Osterbacka at Abo Akademi University in Finland, he is developing a roll-to-roll printing system and a low-voltage organic transistor for the electronic devices.
With American paper companies rapidly losing business to less expensive Chinese competitors, electronic paper could also re-enliven their businesses, providing a cutting edge product to diversify their market.