Stretchable OLED: Roll Up your Tablet PC and Tuck it in Your Pocket

  • Engineers at UCLA have created the first fully stretchable organic light-emitting diode (OLED), taking the development of bendable devices to the next level.
  • “Stretchable electronics promise video displays that could be rolled up and tucked into a shirt pocket, or cell phones that could swell or shrink,” reports MIT’s Technology Review. “Electronic sheets that could be draped like cloth would be a boon for robotic skin and embedded medical devices.”
  • In order to create the stretchable OLED display, UCLA’s team “sandwiched two layers of the carbon nanotube electrode around a plastic that emits light when a current runs through it. The team used an office laminating device to press the final, layered device together tightly, pushing out any air bubbles and ensuring that the circuit would be complete when electricity was applied.” The result is a small polymer that can stretch up to 45 percent on one axis while emitting a colored light.
  • The two-centimeter square proof-of-concept unit is a ways off from making it into CE devices, but is a significant breakthrough. “We are still some ways off from having high-performance, really robust, intrinsically stretchable devices,” says Stanford professor of chemical engineering Zhenan Bao who works on stretchable solar cells, but “with this work and those from others, we are getting closer and closer to realizing this kind of sophisticated and multifunctional electronic skin.”