Clothes As Display Screens? Scientists Are Working On It

Researchers in South Korea have found a way to protect polymer solar cells and organic light emitting diodes from moisture, paving the way for wearable, washable displays.

AsianScientist (Apr. 3, 2019) – In an electrifying development for clothing, researchers in South Korea have developed textile-based wearable display module technology that is washable and does not require an external power source. They published their findings in the journal Energy & Environmental Science.

Textiles are wearable and washable, but for smart clothing to become a reality, the electronic components integrated with the fabric need to be washable too. However, problems with power sources and moisture permeability, which causes the electronics to malfunction, have hampered the widespread implementation and adoption of smart clothing.

To overcome these problems, researchers led by Professor Choi Kyung Cheol at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) fabricated wearable display modules on textiles that integrated polymer solar cells (PSCs) with organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) and encapsulated them in waterproof material.

PSCs are one of the most promising candidates for powering devices and OLEDs require only milliwatts to function, hence the researchers sought to combine the two technologies to create wearable display modules. However, both PSCs and OLEDs are very vulnerable to external moisture and oxygen.

The KAIST team thus used techniques such as atomic layer deposition and spin coating to devise a washable encapsulation barrier that can protect the PSCs and OLEDs. With this encapsulation technology, the team confirmed that their textile-based wearable display modules exhibited little change in characteristics even after 20 washes, each lasting ten-minutes. Moreover, the encapsulated device operated stably, with a low curvature radius of three millimeters, and exhibited high reliability. The invention remained functional even after 30 days of bending stress and washing.

“This research has [led to the creation of] a truly washable, wearable electronic module, in the sense that it uses daily wearable textiles instead of the plastic used in conventional wearable electronic devices. It can be self-powered using solar energy and washed. I believe that it has paved the way for a ‘true-meaning wearable display’ that can be formed on textile,” said Choi.

The article can be found at: Jeong et al. (2019) Textile-based Washable Polymer Solar Cells for Optoelectronic Modules: Toward Self-powered Smart Clothing.


Source: Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. Photo: Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.
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