Nokia showcases stretchy mobiles of the future

25 Feb 2008

Visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York today got a glimpse of what the mobile phone of the future might look like and it’s flexible, stretchable and self-cleaning.

Morph is a nanotechnology concept developed by Nokia Research Centre (NRC) and the University of Cambridge (UK) and was launched alongside the ‘Design and the Elastic Mind’ exhibition at MOMA today.

This device concept showcases leaps being explored by NRC in collaboration with the Cambridge Nanoscience Centre into nanoscale technologies with the potential to create a world of radically different mobile devices.

Some of the possibilities NRC and the University of Cambridge are researching include newly-enabled, flexible and transparent materials which blend more seamlessly with the way we live, devices that are self-cleaning and self-preserving, transparent electronics which offer an entirely new aesthetic dimension, built-in solar absorption to charge devices and handsets with integrated sensors to provide information about the surrounding environment.

“Nokia Research Centre is looking at ways to reinvent the form and function of mobile devices; the Morph concept shows what might be possible,” said Dr Bob Iannucci, chief technology officer, Nokia.

“We hope this combination of art and science will showcase the potential of nanoscience to a wider audience,” said Dr Tapani Ryhanen, head of the NRC Cambridge UK laboratory, Nokia. “The research we are carrying out is fundamental to this as we seek a safe and controlled way to develop and use new materials.”

Nanotechnology enables materials and components that are flexible, stretchable, transparent and remarkably strong. Fibril proteins are woven into a 3D mesh that reinforces thin elastic structures. Using the same principle behind spider silk, this elasticity could enable a mobile device to literally change shape and configure itself to adapt to the task at hand. For example, a folded design would fit easily in a pocket and could lend itself ergonomically to being used as a traditional handset. An unfolded, larger design could display more detailed information and incorporate input devices such as keyboards and touchpads.

Nanotechnology can also be leveraged to create self-cleaning surfaces on mobile devices, ultimately reducing corrosion, wear and improving longevity. Nanostructured surfaces have the potential to naturally repel water, dirt and even fingerprints.

The integrated electronics showcased in the Morph concept could also reduce costs and allow more functionality in much smaller devices.

By Niall Byrne