Stretchable OLED material promises enhanced displays

Stretchable OLED material promises enhanced displays

Technology News |
By Peter Clarke

Researchers at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) at the University of Chicago have developed a fluorescent display material that can bend and be stretched to twice its length.

The material is said to show promise for applications ranging from wearable electronics and health sensors to foldable computer screens.

The synthetic polymer is light-emitting through thermally-activated delayed fluorescence (TADF), which it allows it to use all excitons for light generation. It achieves a stretchability of 125 percent, with an external quantum efficiency of 10 percent.

“Our goal was to create something that maintained the electroluminescence of OLED but with stretchable polymers,” said Sihong Wang, assistant professor of molecular engineering, who led the research along with Juan de Pablo, Liew Family Professor of Molecular Engineering. Wang added: ““Our goal was to create something that maintained the electroluminescence of OLED but with stretchable polymers.”

Professor de Pablo said: “We have been able to develop atomic models of the new polymers of interest and, with these models, we simulated what happens to these molecules when you pull on them and try to bend them. Now that we understand these properties at a molecular level, we have a framework to engineer new materials where flexibility and luminescence are optimized.”

TADF ups efficiency

The team made several candidate materials, which as the simulations had predicted were flexible, stretchable, bright, durable and energy efficient. The inclusion of TADF, a third-generation mechanism for organic emitters, provided the materials with performance on a par with commercial OLED technologies, the researchers said.

Wang had previously developed stretchable neuromorphic computing chips that can collect and analyze health data on a kind of flexible Band-Aid. The ability to now create stretchable displays adds to a suite of circuit element for next-generation wearable electronics.

The team is planning to develop iterations of the display in the future, integrating additional colors into the fluorescence and improving the efficiency and performance.

‘High-efficiency stretchable light-emitting polymers from thermally activated delayed fluorescence,’ Liu et al, Nature Materials, April 6, 2023. DOI: 10.1038/s41563-023-01529-w

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