Well, we have been enjoying the curved displays for quite some time now, and Samsung seems to be working on something better. The tech giant is making immense progress in making screens that are stretchable like rubber bands (they stretch in all different directions). That being said, the first application of this technology is building the OLED skin within the flexible health technology. With the development of flexible displays, people have been pondering about the next development in display technology.
Lately, the free-form displays have gained traction since the advanced technology will deliver portability as well as high-resolution visuals. To be honest, this technology is still emerging but stretchable display technology has gained much advancement. The stretchable display is the core technology in free-form displays as they can be stretched and the shapes can be changed. Recently, Samsung burst the news of developing the stretchable OLED skin; primarily designed for fitness tracking in the wearable device.
The Breakthrough in Stretchable Display & Sensors
Back on 4th June, the research conducted by SAIT (Samsung Advanced Institute Of Technology) stated the technology has been designed to overcome the limitations associated with stretchable devices. The research was published in a renowned journal, Science Advances by the R&D hub of Samsung for designing cutting-edge technology. With this study, the researchers achieved stable performance through the stretchable device, even with higher elongation.
In addition, it stated that the industry is ready to commercialize stretchable devices since the new technology can be integrated with the current semiconductor procedures. This is because the SAIT research team managed to integrate the OLED display with PPG sensors (photoplethysmography) in one device for measuring the real-time heart rate of the users and display the information. As a result, it created stretchable skin.
It’s a great milestone that proved the feasibility and scope of this technology, and will certainly pave inroads for the uptake of stretchable devices in the forthcoming future.
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The Samsung OLED Skin Display With Up To 30% Stretching
The biggest triumph of this research was that the researchers were able to modify the structure and composition of the elastomer. Elastomer is the polymer component with higher resilience and elasticity. It also utilizes the currently available semiconductor manufacturing procedures for applying it to the stretchable OLED display. It can be applied to optical blood-flow sensors (it’s the biggest revelation in the tech industry).
The research team also confirmed that the display and sensor kept operating normally and there was no performance lapse. In addition, it didn’t have performance degradation while the elongation was up to 30%. For testing the research, the researchers at SAIT connected the Samsung OLED display systems and PPG heart rate sensors to the inner wrist (it was applied near the radial artery). As a result, they were able to confirm that movements in the wrist didn’t cause deterioration of features.
In addition, the device kept giving reliable readings, as long as the elongation was up to 30%. Even more, when the signals are measured from the moving wrist, the sensor was able to pick up the heartbeat signals. Also, they found out that heartbeat signals were 2.4x stronger as compared to the fixed silicon sensors.
The technology is strong enough to allow the measurement of biometric data for a longer time span without removing the device. This is because the OLED patch becomes a part of the skin, so you don’t have to remove it while exercising or sleeping. Moreover, you can check the biometric data on an instant basis on the screen without connecting the third-party of external devices. This technology is expandable to healthcare products (yes, wearable products for infants, kids, and adults).
Overcoming the Technical Issues
Implementing and using stretchable display technology has always been challenging because when the display’s shape is manipulated or is stretched, the device tends to show performance lags or breaks. For overcoming this issue, the elements and materials must be elastic and should have the ability to retain valid electrical features (the elements include the electrode, substrate, emission layer, sensor, a transistor with thin-film).
For this reason, the researchers ditched the plastic materials that are currently being used in the stretchable displays. The system created by SAIT uses the photolithography processes for connecting the sensors and displays which promises improved processing and micro-patterning. The elastomer has higher resilience and elasticity but has a limited capacity when it is applied to the current semiconductor processes (there is vulnerability to heat).
However, the thermal resistance of the material was improved by modifying the molecular composition. In addition, they integrated the molecule chains chemically for developing resistance to the materials that are being used in the semiconductor procedures. According to the research, they used the island structure for reducing the stress that’s caused by elongation. In addition, they induced more stress on areas where elastomer has a low coefficient of elasticity.
This allowed them to reduce the stress that’s sustained by the OLED pixel area as it’s vulnerable to pressure. Not to forget they applied cracked metal for resisting deformation in the elastomer area. It eventually helped shrink and stretch the wiring electrodes and other spaces.
Expanding Applications & Commercialization
The stretchable OLED sensor by Samsung is designed to take precise heartbeat measurements with higher sensitivity as compared to fixed sensors. Also, since the stretchable OLED skin is able to create a connection to the skin, it reduces the chances of inconsistency in the performance (the inconsistencies are generally caused by movement). That being said, the commercialization of the stretchable device with a bigger screen and high resolution has better potential in the future.
According to the lead researcher associated with the development of technology, the research is still in the earlier phase but the ultimate goal is realizing and commercializing the stretchable devices by improving the accuracy in measurements, resolution, and stretchability to ensure that mass production is possible. Moreover, they plan on adding freeform displays and stretchable sensors, so the users can monitor blood pressure, peripheral oxygen saturation, and electromyogram. To be honest, while this may still just be a concept, but it’s an intriguing one!