We’ve had curved screens for a while, but what about stretchy ones? Samsung says yes make progress building screens “that can be stretched in all directions, like rubber bands”, and that the first applications for this material could be in building flexible health technology.
The company’s researchers recently created an OLED screen that can stretch up to 30 percent while operating normally. As a proof of concept, engineers integrated this display into a stretchable heart rate monitor that can be stuck to the skin like a band-aid.
“The power of this technology is that you can measure your biometric data for a longer period of time without having to remove the solution when you sleep or exercise, because the patch feels like a part of your skin,” said Samsung’s Youngjun Yun. the prototype technology in a press statement. “You can also view your biometric data right on the screen without having to transfer it to an external device.”
The screen is rudimentary, but it worked normally after being stretched 1000 times, Samsung engineers say. The design of the heart rate monitor, which sits flush to the patient’s skin, allowed it to pick up a signal 2.4 times stronger than a regular sensor.
While the technology is still in the early stages of development, Samsung suggests it could be used in the future to support a range of health monitoring systems. “The technology could also be expanded for use in wearable health products for adults, children and infants, as well as patients with certain diseases,” Yun said.
Details of the investigation are published in the magazine scientific progress.
The screen can be stretched as it is made of a specially designed flexible material called elastomer. This elastomer has been treated by Samsung engineers to withstand the heat of the integrated electronics and has a special grid-like “island” structure.
The elastomer islands are implanted with individual OLED pixels and are stiffer than the surrounding channels, while flexible electrodes are used to conduct the electricity. This two-piece structure allows “the spaces and wiring electrodes between the pixels to stretch and contract without distorting the OLED pixels themselves,” Yun says.
Don’t expect to see a new stretchy Samsung Galaxy soon (although the concept would fit well with theories of a expanding universe), because the screens built with this technology are too simple to be used for anything other than simple monitors. But in the future, this kind of technology could make wearable gadgets less rigid and more comfortable.
If you want to learn more about the science behind stretchable screens, IEEE spectrum has a nice report on the subject from last year.