Research highlight

Electronics: Stretchy, bright and strong wearable displays

Nature

March 24, 2022

An extremely elastic, wearable display with outstanding brightness levels and good mechanical stability is presented in a paper published in Nature. This design may be considered a major advancement towards high-performance stretchable displays.

The immediate displaying of information is the core function for interactive human–electronic interfaces used for many purposes, such as imaging, therapy, and the monitoring of health and well-being and the early onset of diseases. The ideal light-emitting diode displays — or LED displays — applied on skin should be soft to the touch, stretchable and bright. Current stretchable light-emitting devices are mostly created using inorganic materials and thus require either high voltage or have limited stretchability and brightness and resolution under strain.

To solve this issue, Zhenan Bao and colleagues describe a design and process to create stretchable, all-polymer light-emitting diodes (APLEDs). The authors report that their APLEDs achieve high brightness, durability and can function while they are stretched to double their initial length. For practical applications, the APLEDs need to function over an extended period of time while attached to human skin. The authors use a flexible, wireless energy-harvesting system to power their APLED with radio waves, and show that it was able to indicate real-time pulse signals by repeatedly blinking in time with human heartbeats.

This device may provide the groundwork for future skin electronics and human–electronic applications, conclude the authors.

doi: 10.1038/s41586-022-04400-1

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