New OLED Display Can Be Stretched, Folded & Twisted

The television has come a long way since tubes, three channels, and black and white pictures. Now we’ve got massive flat screens that weigh just a few pounds, using a fraction of the energy to blast high resolution images into our retinas. But they’re still not as good as the real thing. That’s something researchers at UCLA are hoping to change with their newest project.

Together with his team, researcher Qibing Pei is working an efficient OLED display that is capable of being folded and stretched to twice its original size. Many feel that the development of such a display could be the key to the wearable technology that’s sure to be in our future.

UCLA OLED Bending

Image via UCLA

“Imagine an electronic display nearly as clear as a window, or a curtain that illuminates a room, or a smartphone screen that doubles in size, stretching like rubber. Now imagine all of these being made from the same material,” states a UCLA press release.

It might seem like science-fiction, but results from Pei’s research, published online in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Photonics, proves that it’s closer to reality than ever before.

“The material has a single layer of an electro-luminescent polymer blend sandwiched between a pair of new transparent elastic composite electrodes,” continues the release. “These electrodes are made of a network of silver nanowires inlaid into a rubbery polymer, which allows the device to be used at room temperatures. All of these layers are fully stretchable, foldable and twistable.”

In tests, the prototype OLED display was stretched and restretched 1,000 times, pulling the material 30 percent beyond its original shape and size, yet it still continued to work at a high efficiency. In addition, it was folded 180 degrees and twisted in multiple directions.

Major technical challenges remain, however, including “how to seal these materials that are otherwise sensitive to air,” explained Pei. “Researchers around the world are racing the clock tackling the obstacles. We are confident that we will get there and introduce a number of cool products along the way.”

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog