Army commissions flexible displays

The Army has signed a $730,000 deal with Universal Display Corp. to accelerate development of small, flexible color LED displays.

The Army Communications-Electronics Research and Development Engineering Center at Fort Monmouth, N.J., awarded the contract through the Small Business Innovation Research program.

The displays are to be ready for mass production by 2007 for the Objective Force Warrior program, said Janice Mahon, vice president of technology commercialization for the Ewing, N.J., company.

Universal Display already develops organic light emitting diode, or OLED, flat-panel computer displays. It is in the early stages of making flexible, thin-film-transistor backplanes out of metal foil.

Such displays could be rolled up into pen size and attached to a soldier's clothing by Velcro, Mahon said. The company is testing a companion communications device that can wirelessly download data.

The Army award follows a $50,000, SBIR Phase I award for a feasibility study last year. The Phase II contract will last for 24 months.

During a panel discussion at the Defense Research and Engineering Exposition this week in Washington, Thomas Killion, acting Army science and technology executive, said flexible displays are one of the breakthrough technologies the service is pursuing.

'We want display technologies that allow you to fold them up and carry them around in your pocket,' Killion said. 'We want to get away from the inflexible glass-based products.'

He said the goal of the Objective Force Warrior program is to reduce the weight of gear that soldiers now carry'sometimes more than 100 pounds'to less than 50 pounds.

Established under the Small Business Innovation Development Act of 1982, the SBIR program mandates that all non-intelligence agencies with outsourced R&D efforts totaling more than $100 million a year must devote 2.5 percent of those budgets to small businesses efforts.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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