Prof Kyung Cheol Choi from the School of Electrical Engineering and his team built the display modules on real textiles that integrated polymer solar cells (PSCs) with organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs).
PSCs have been one of the most promising candidates for a next-generation power source, especially for wearable and optoelectronic applications because they can provide stable power without an external power source, while OLEDs can be driven with milliwatts. However, the problem was that they are both very vulnerable to external moisture and oxygen. The encapsulation barrier is essential for their reliability, and while conventional encapsulation barrier is sufficient for normal environments, it doesn’t wash very well. This limits the commercialization of wearing displays that must operate even on rainy days or after washing.
To tackle this issue, the team employed a washable encapsulation barrier that can protect the device without losing its characteristics after washing through atomic layer deposition (ALD) and spin coating. With this encapsulation technology, the team confirmed that textile-based wearing display modules including PSCs, OLEDs, and the proposed encapsulation barrier exhibited little change in characteristics even after 20 washings with 10-minute cycles and was stable with a low curvature radius of 3mm and boasted high reliability.
The module showed no deterioration in properties over 30 days even after being subjected to both bending stress and washing. Since it uses a less stressful textile, compared to conventional wearable electronic devices that use traditional plastic substrates, this technology can accelerate the commercialization of wearing electronic devices. Importantly, this wearable electronic device in daily life can save energy through a self-powered system.
“I could say that this research realized a truly washable wearable electronic module in the sense that it uses daily wearable textiles instead of the plastic used in conventional wearable electronic devices. Saving energy with PSCs, it can be self-powered using solar energy, and washed. I believe that it has paved the way for a ‘true-meaning wearable display’ that can be formed on textile, beyond the attachable form of wearable technology,” said Prof Choi.
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