But now scientists at the University of Southern California have succeeded in creating genuinely see-through electronics, using nanotubes and transparent plastics.
A team at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering has made a clear, colourless disk about 5 inches in diameter that bends and twists like a playing card, but containing a lattice of over 20,000 nanotube transistors.
Nanotech carbon tubes should lead to cool transparent gizmos
Atomic power
The thin transparent thin-film transistor technology employs carbon nanotubes - tubes with walls one carbon atom thick - as active channels for circuits, controlled by iridium-tin oxide electrodes.
This miniature transistor are capable of high-performance electronics and could be used to embed LEDs in plastic surfaces, enabling heads-up displays in cars, or tough, flexible transparent e-papers.
The real breakthrough by the boffins was perfecting a technique for creating and embedding the nanotech components without requiring high temperatures.
The nanotechnology researchers said, "Our transfer printing process allows the devices to be fabricated through low temperature process, which is particularly important for realizing transparent electronics on flexible substrates."
You saw it - or rather, didn't see it - here first.
Mario Pedraza
Electrónica del Estado Sólido
Sección 2