A new plastic-based microprocessor motherboard is under development, and a prototype is expected by next summer.

UK start-up firm, Plastic Logic is developing the manufacturing technique that uses a flexible plastic material for the motherboard instead of silicon.

Plastic Logic invented the method of printing plastic onto a polymer substrate as a way to replace silicon chips for the transistors used in semiconductors.

Flexible Unlike silicon-based processors that are fabricated on brittle, flat wafers, Plastic Logic's fabrication process prints the chips on rolls of film that can be applied to a variety of surfaces, such as clothing.

Statements on the company's Web site show the Plastic Logic technology headed for relatively small-duty processing tasks, which include intelligent supermarket pricing labels. The plastic chips promise to be cheaper to produce than their silicon alternatives.

Some industry analysts are sceptical, saying that silicon is not an expensive material and not in short supply. Nathan Brookwood, at Insight 64, said: "Silicon is basically highly refined sand."

Majority Brookwood said that while some silicon-based microprocessors sell for as much as $5,000, the vast majority of chips are very small silicon processors that cost less than a dollar.

Brookwood also warned that global investments in silicon processor fabrication plants, which he estimates at $100 billion, would have a company such as Plastic Logic essentially swimming upstream in an industry fixed in silicon.

Intel representatives said they believe that the technology is of interest to its scientists, but predict it is destined for "the extreme low end" of the processor market. Intel has no plans to pursue plastic as an alternative to silicon for any of its processor.

Plastic Logic was founded by two polymer electronics researchers, Professor Richard Friend, of Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University and co-founder of Cambridge Display Technology, and Dr. Henning Sirringhaus, a lecturer at Cavendish Laboratory.