“The fact that the fabricated OLED can work under stretched conditions is quite impressive,” says Jay Guo, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Michigan who works on manufacturing plastic electronics.
The proof-of-concept device is a two-centimeter square with a one-centimeter square area that emits a sky-blue light. This week, the group published an additional paper showing that swapping in more-conductive silver nanowires for carbon nanotubes in a similar process made a more efficient light-emitting diode.
This work is interesting and significantly different from past work, according to John Rogers, a professor of materials science at the University of Illinois who develops stretchable, deformable electronics.
Another benefit of the electrode is that it is less likely to short out. “Typically, carbon nanotube film is rough, so that can cause shorting in electronic devices,” says Zhenan Bao, a Stanford professor of chemical engineering who works on stretchable solar cells. “Using this method, they ended up with a relatively flat surface that can be used for an electrode.”
She adds that the stretchable electronics demonstrated thus far lose conductivity after being stretched too far or too many times, so more research is needed in this area.
“We are still some ways off from having high-performance, really robust, intrinsically stretchable devices,” says Bao, but “with this work and those from others, we are getting closer and closer to realizing this kind of sophisticated and multifunctional electronic skin.”
Smaller design teams can now prototype and deploy faster.