Fujitsu has developed a flexible LCD panel that can maintain the displayed image even with no power supply.

The ‘cholesteric’ LCD panel measures 3.8in across the diagonal and was on show on Thursday at the company's Fujitsu Forum 2005 event in Tokyo.

It's the result of about five years of research, according to a Fujitsiu spokesperson, and could be on the market in two or three years.

Two versions of the 3.8in display were on show. A powered colour display showed continuously changing images, with each screen refresh taking several seconds, while a monochrome display that hadn't been powered for two weeks was still showing its image.

The company has dreamed up a number of uses for the panels, including electronic advertisements on trains and displays on smartcards.

Because they require very little power to refresh, the images can be changed by drawing power from the weak radio waves used in contactless smartcards, like those in use on many public transport systems around the world.

Fujitsu is calling the technology 'electronic paper' and also suggested, as have most companies that propose flexible displays, that it might serve in the future as an electronic newspaper. While the displays have high contrast and are almost as flexible as paper, they fall short in some areas: they can't be folded and they can't be written on.

Cholesteric LCD panels are also being developed by other companies, including Philips. In addition, Kent Displays already offers seven types of such panels including an SVGA resolution (800x600 pixels) panel that measures 368x276mm.