Sony today unveiled a prototype OLED display so thin and flexible it can wrap around a pencil-sized cylinder while showing video images in full color. The 4.1-inch screen has a resolution of 432 by 240 pixels, which is similar to that offered by many cell phones, and is approximately micrometers-thick thick (about the width of a human hair). The roll-up OLED display also touts a contrast ratio of 1,000:1 and manages a brightness level of 100 cd/m2.

To create such a thin display Sony used a new organic semiconductor material it developed called peri-Xanthenoxanthene (PXX), which is resistant to oxygen, moisture, light, and heat exposure. The new display is also the first flexible organic thin-film transistor (OTFT) that uses something called an integrated flexible gate-driver circuit, allowing Sony to lose the rigid driver IC chips usually found in other types of displays.

The video above shows the display being rolled and unrolled around a cylinder 4 millimeters in diameter. Although image quality is not flawless – in fact some funky horizontal and vertical lines are visible – it still represents a breakthrough in this area of display research. The technology will be shown off this week at the Society for Information Display 2010 International Symposium in Seattle.