Researchers at Purdue University's Birck Nanotechnology Center have used nanotechnology to create transparent transistors and circuits, a step that promises applications from e-paper and flexible color screens for consumer electronics, to "smart cards" and heads-up displays in auto windshields. The transistors are made of single nanowires, or tiny cylindrical structures, that were assembled on glass or thin films of flexible plastic.

The nanowires are transparent because they are made of materials that do not absorb light in the visible range of the spectrum. In conventional electronics, transistors are connected to the rest of the circuitry by tiny lines of metal that act as wires. But in the new approach, the nanowires are the transistors.

Other researchers had previously created nanowire transistors, but the metal electrodes in the transistors were non-transparent, which made the overall structure opaque. The advancement has potential applications in areas such as transparent displays for heads-up displays on windshields and information displays on eyeglasses and visors; sports goggles for spectators to follow a particular player while having relevant statistics displayed; and real-time interactive information for soldiers and surgeons.

Flexible displays for "e-paper" would allow full-motion video. Unlike conventional flat-panel displays, which use a backlight to illuminate pixels, e-paper reflects light like ordinary paper and is capable of holding text and images indefinitely without drawing electricity. Potential uses of e-paper include energy efficient ways of displaying information and video as a replacement for magazines, newspapers, books, electronic signs, and billboards.

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