Perhaps the biggest announcement of Common Platform Technology Forum wasn’t even in the focus of the semiconductor engineers: we all know flexible, wearable computing is the future, and IBM has the way to make it a reality.

Even though it may seem that computers are everywhere, the fact of the matter is that all the hardware of today has a specific set of limitations, most notably its shape. Regardless of are we talking about your personal computer, be that smartphone, tablet or a laptop or desktop to the gigantic digital billboard panels, the design is limited by the fact that the motherboard and the processor are flat.

Hidden gem - among many innovations coming from Common Platform, this one deserved more attention than it received
Hidden gem – among many innovations coming from Common Platform, this one deserved more attention than it received

Researchers at IBM East Fishkill research and College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany, NY developed a flexible wafer material which in the future could be used for mass chip manufacturing. Naturally, the chips of tomorrow will not be as high clocked or consume as much power. 

In this early stage of development, the researchers were able to demonstrate a flexible wafer with all the properties of development wafers of today. The printed pattern contains transistors, SRAM cells, gates and other properties the test wafers typically have – which is a major encouragement towards the feasibility studies of this project.

Future of computing in our hands: flexible wafers will enable new class of devices
Future of computing in our hands: flexible wafers will enable new class of devices

As you can see in the images, we’re not talking about a production 12" (300mm) or even 8" (200mm) wafer. This flexible wafer is actually just 4" in size (100mm), and is at least 5-10 years away from mass production.

The wafer feels like tin foil, but it bends like no other.
The wafer feels like tin foil, but it bends like no other.

However, this concept exists today and if this development continues, the world of fashion will turn upside down. Then, the world of smartphones and ultimately, we will finally be able to move away from fixed shape objects into something we can start calling ‘shaped computing’.