Flexible electronic ‘skin’ that allows the visualization of the position and intensity of a finger touch instantaneously is described online in Nature Materials this week. In the prototypes, arrays of coloured pixels whose brightness is controlled by the applied pressure are realized on a plastic substrate, and work without the need for external connections to human-readable interfaces.
Ali Javey and colleagues combined a matrix of organic light-emitting diodes with a conductive rubber that, when compressed, allows electric current to flow. The researchers show that the force applied to each diode can control the intensity of the light emitted: the harder the push, the brighter the display. This integrated sensor-and-display device rests on a flexible plastic substrate that can adapt to curved surfaces.
The researchers suggest that this device is an example of the degree of complexity that can be reached using plastic substrates. The availability of technologies to realize electronic circuitries, light-emitting devices and sensors on flexible substrates, and also on very large areas, may inspire the design and fabrication of a broad range of integrated systems for automotive, robotics or medical applications.