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This bendy e-paper can display all the colors of the rainbow

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have developed a new type of electronic paper that's flexible and can display any color that a regular LED display can.

It's the work of Andreas Sahlin and Kunli Xiong, who came up with the idea while working on conductive polymers. After a year of refining the design, they've come up with a new type of display less than a micrometre thick.

Bright light

“The ’paper’ is similar to the Kindle tablet", said Andreas Dahlin. "It isn’t lit up like a standard display, but rather reflects the external light which illuminates it. Therefore it works very well where there is bright light, such as out in the sun.

"At the same time it needs only a tenth of the energy that a Kindle tablet uses, which itself uses much less energy than a tablet LED display”.

Engineers needed

While they've only built and tested a few pixels so far, they say there's no reason why enough couldn't be built to make an entire display.

“We are working at a fundamental level but even so, the step to manufacturing a product out of it shouldn’t be too far away. What we need now are engineers”, said Dahlin.

The biggest issue is the amount of gold and silver used in the display. While there isn't a lot of gold in the end product, quite a lot is wasted during manufacture. 

"Either we reduce the waste or we find another way to decrease the manufacturing cost," said Dahlin.

Public spaces

It's hoped that the material could one day be used in public spaces to display information, both replacing traditional signs and reducing the energy consumption of digital screens.

The full details of how it works were published in a paper in the journal Advanced Materials.

Duncan Geere is TechRadar's science writer. Every day he finds the most interesting science news and explains why you should care. You can read more of his stories here, and you can find him on Twitter under the handle @duncangeere.