One prototype of a new technology for manufacturing so-called bendy displays wraps around a thumb, and bus-sized applications are not out of the question. Researchers at the University of Illinois (U of I) in Champaign-Urbana have announced a new technique for manufacturing inorganic light-emitting diode technology (ILEDs). From an ergonomics angle, any benefit of the method will lie in its potential for making data clearer on a display and easier on the eyes. The technology may also open up a world of new flexible, portable displays.
There are two types of LED technology, inorganic and organic. The vast majority of consumer electronics use the inorganic version as they are much brighter than the organic type (OLEDs). According to the journal Technology Review, typical ILEDs are expensive and difficult to make. The manufacturing process involves sawing wafers of semiconducting materials such as gallium arsenide, picking and placing each piece individually using robotics, and adding electrical connections one at a time.
As outlined in the U of I researchers’ recent article in Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, OLEDs can be easier to manufacture as they are made individually smaller, processed in high quantities and spread out in thin films that are easy to manipulate and connect electrically.
They have found a way of combining the best aspects of the two technologies, and their new method allows these tiny LEDs to be attached to materials such as glass or rubber.
The technique “enables new kinds of ‘form factors’ that would allow you to put lighting sources on curved surfaces or in corners, places where you can’t put light sources nowadays,” explained Professor John Rogers, the lead researcher, in an interview with BBC News in August. The devices can be placed sparsely enough that a bright layer of them is practically transparent.
The technique could be used to create wearable health monitors and diagnostic equipment. Professor Rogers said that the nearer-term applications for the approach will be in general lighting or in the illumination of instrument panels. “Displays remain the ultimate goal – we don’t need a new law of physics to enable it, it’s just more of an engineering question.”
Sources: Science; Technology Review; BBC News