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Nokia: Looking at Flexible, Stretchable Cell Phones

On Feb. 24, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) opened its

On Feb. 24, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) opened its “Design and the Elastic Mind” exhibit, which explores the relationship between scientific breakthroughs and design. The nanotech exhibit looks particularly interesting. Some scientists are, apparently, working on biojewelry: They’ve created rings out of donated bone cells.

There’s another project on display that will be of particular interest to gadget lovers: In a cool video, Nokia demonstrates its vision for the cell phone of the future. Many of the capabilities and functionalities are based on research Nokia is conducting with a group of scientists at the University of Cambridge. It’s working on flexible, stretchable phones, for example, which can be bent around your wrist and double as bracelets.

How does this work? Scientists are using nanotechnology to create smaller electrical circuits on a rubbery substrate. They are also attempting to make the circuits themselves flexible. While companies like Philips have demonstrated prototypes of flexible displays, truly flexible electronics — a cell phone that bends — is still about 10 years away, says Mark Welland, head of the Department of Engineering’s Nanoscience Group at the University of Cambridge.

Nokia is, essentially, looking to build devices that are "transformable," says Tapani Ryhanen, head of the NRC Cambridge U.K. laboratory at Nokia. "It's one additional degree of freedom [when it comes to design]."

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