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A stretchable, foldable transparent electronic display

September 27, 2013 | Telepresence Options

ucla foldable electronics

Story and images by Kurzweilai

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,� and all of these being made from the same material.

Researchers from�UCLA's Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science�have�developed�a transparent, elastic organic light-emitting device, or OLED, that could one day make all these possible. The OLED can be repeatedly stretched, folded and twisted at room temperature while still remaining lit and retaining its original shape.

OLED technology is already used today in screens for many smartphones and some televisions. But the new ultra-stretchable OLED material developed at UCLA could lead to foldable and expandable screens for new classes of smartphones and other personal electronic devices; or electronics-integrated clothing; wallpaper-like lighting; new minimally invasive medical tools; and many other applications.

"Our new material is the building block for fully stretchable electronics for consumer devices," said Qibing Pei, a UCLA professor of materials science and engineering and principal investigator on the research. "Along with the development of stretchable thin-film transistors, we believe that fully stretchable interactive OLED displays that are as thin as wallpaper will be achieved in the near future. And this will give creative electronics designers new dimensions to exploit."

The researchers stretched and restretched the OLED 1,000 times, extending it 30 percent beyond its original shape and size, and it still continued to work at a high efficiency. In another test to determine the material's maximum stretch, the researchers found it could be stretched to more than twice its original size while still functioning. In addition, it can be folded 180 degrees and can be twisted in multiple directions.

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