Not even Star Trek imagined a future where electronics would be both flexible and transparent. And let's be honest: it's hard to imagine such gadgets even today, since seeing one or the other is still a rare enough thing. If anything is going to make it happen, though, it's carbon nanotubes, especially now that they've been made into transparent films.
The conventional way to make a transparent conductive coating for see-through screens is to use indium tin oxide (ITO), but as a ceramic, it's whatever the opposite of flexible is. Meanwhile, the conventional way to make flexible screens is with a metal foil backing, but as a metal foil, it's whatever the opposite of transparent is. What you need to make a touchscreen that's both non-rigid and non-opaque is something new and futuristic and amazing, like carbon nanotubes, which, as far as we can tell, can be used to do absolutely anything.
Researchers at Rice University have found a way to coax carbon nanotubes into a high quality thin and 90% transparent conductive sheet using a method that they say can be adapted to inexpensive and efficient high-throughput processes that are common in the electronics industry. The sheets are comprised of meshes of nanotubes just a few nanometers thick (as in the pic above), but that's just fine to be integrated into something like a cellphone display. As the researchers explain, "our thin film for something like a cell phone would need very little material -- a few micrograms of nanotubes -- so it wouldn't be that expensive, but it would have similar properties in transparency and conductivity to ITO."
Bring it on, dudes: I'm more than ready for my roll-up see-through carbon nanotube touchscreen windonexipadophone.
Via Rice University