Think of a wearable patch that monitors your vital signs through changes in the color display, or shipping labels that light up to indicate temperature changes or food sterility. These are just some of the potential applications of a new flexible display created by researchers at the University of British Columbia.
A display that adapts
"This screen it is able to change color quickly, in real time and reversibly,” says the researcher Claire Preston, who developed the device as part of his master's degree in electrical and computer engineering at UBC. "It can stretch up to 30% without losing its performance. It uses color-changing technology that can be used for visual tracking. And its production is relatively cheap."
Overcome the limits
Previous attempts to create stretchable displays involved complex designs and materials, limiting their stretch and optical quality. In this new research, the scientists relied on electrochromic displays (which are capable of reversible color change, requiring low power consumption) to overcome these limitations.
“We used PEDOT:PSS, an electrochromic material. It consists of a conductive polymer combined with an ionic liquid, resulting in a stretchable electrode that also serves as an ion storage layer. This simplifies the device architecture and eliminates the need for a conductor separate extendable,” Preston explains.
A flexible future
The display is transparent and has the consistency of a stiff rubber band. To support the thin layers of PEDOT and allow them to stretch without breaking, the team added a solid polymer electrolyte and a stretchable encapsulation material called styrene-ethylene-butylene-styrene (SEBS).
"The potential applications for this stretchable display are significant," noted the senior author Dr John Madden, professor of electrical and computer engineering who supervised the work, that I link to you here. "It could be integrated into wearable devices for biometric monitoring, allowing for real-time visual feedback on vital signs."
The displays could also be used in the skin of robots, allowing robots to display information and interact more intuitively with humans.
Again: the low energy consumption and cost-effectiveness of this technology make it attractive even for use in single-use applications, such as indicator patches for medical purposes or smart labels for sensitive shipments. It could also be used to actively change the color of jackets, hats and other items of clothing.
Displays, displays everywhere
This development represents a significant leap forward in the field of flexible displays and across industries from medicine to fashion. The idea of a display that can change color and stretch without losing its performance opens up a number of exciting possibilities.
A hat that changes color depending on the weather? A shirt that displays message notifications?
As technology continues to evolve and merge with everyday objects and clothing, the opportunities seem truly endless.