An inside glimpse at what's new in emerging technologies

by Stephen Drew

A condensed book in its rolled-up state measures approximately one cubic centimeter.

Thanks to advances in polymer technology, it will soon be possible to carry several dozen books in one's hip pocket. Made of new polymers (substances composed of repetitive chemical chains), they are designed to roll up or unroll when subjected to different temperatures.


In the unrolled state, a polybook resembles a conventional paperback book

In its rolled-up state, a so-called "polybook" is tiny — approximately one cubic centimeter. When heated to the temperature of a human hand, it unfolds and expands to approximately the size of a standard paperback novel. When the book cools, it folds up again.

The condensed books are being developed by A.G. White, Ltd., of Leicester, U.K. Antonia Brockett, the firm's Director of Industrial Research, predicts that polybooks will be in widespread use within four years, and that they will largely displace traditional paper books in the marketplace within a decade.

At present the condensed books operate only within a narrow temperature range. This presents problems that could delay commercial acceptance. "For example, one must be careful not to leave them out in the sun," Brockett explains to visitors, "else the unrolled state becomes permanently burned in. Conversely, spilling cool water on a book can cause it to curl up instantly, which may not be convenient."

Brockett and her team of polymer chemists are taking several lines of approach to attack the temperature sensitivity problem. They hope to have it licked before next winter.

© Copyright 2003 Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)

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