Are we on the brink of a major technology shift, display and electronics technology is shifting from metallic wires to plastic -polymer electronics- with surprising results.
Research scientist at UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have demonstrated an amazing form of OLED display material that can be stretched up to 45%. Not quite ready to be rolled up into a ball and bounced around the room this hardy little stretchy display is a breakthrough on the road to fully plastic electronics built into everything clothing to coffee tins.
The OLED display demonstrated by the researches was able to be twisted and stretched then return to its original shape all while still operating unaffected. A number of breakthroughs were made in producing this stretchy little patch of plastic. The use of carbon nano-tubes in the polymer electronics gives the display flexibility and negates the need for metallic wiring. The polymer also acts as a framework for the carbon nano-tubes to form around, simplifying the manufacturing allowing roll to roll manufacturing.
The display – emissive polymer– layer is sandwiched between two electronics –composite electrode– layers. The emissive polymer layer contains a discrete LED chip interconnected with stretchable electrodes giving the displays internals enough flexibility to remain fully functional even when stretched. The two outer composite electrode layers contain the single-walled carbon nano-tube polymer composite electrodes. These outer layers are also responsible for returning the display to its permanent shape, this effect is due to the shape-memory properties of the composite electrodes.
Polymer electronics in general like all technology has pluses and minuses. The pluses include being cheap, really cheap, robust and flexible. But its slow -low electron mobility which ultimately leads to slow display refresh rates and slow reaction times. Compared to metal, not even comparing to the best metal, Gold polymer has traditionally been much. The use of carbon nano-tubes improves this characteristic especially well. Already use in some displays including the transparent displays starting to appear now. The transparent nature of the wires has been a huge advantage when making OLED screens for such wonders as the Samsung Galaxy S2, allowing the wiring of the OLED display to be merged within the display instead of behind the display.
Part of a new class of materials called polymer electronics that don’t use traditional metallic wire circuits. Instead using conductive polymers that give them interesting physical characteristics such as being able to flex, bend and stretch. These new materials are set to have a huge an impact on the textiles industry with new intelligent fabrics. Whole new markets for fabric and clothing makers will open up the ability to create stretchy fabrics that integrate sensors, circuits and displays, all integrated into the fabric, no controller computer in a separate box.
This is a milestone development for display technology and polymer electronics, another step towards wearable electronics, pervasive displays everywhere. Bladerunner like technology is has just gotten a little close, UCLA we love you work.
Further information Wiley Online Library
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