From Buses To Bras, Flexible LEDs Shine On


A team of U.S., Singapore and Chinese scientists worked together to create an LED that would be inexpensive, durable and would eliminate the need to be individually cut and connected by hand. In essence, the team's goal was to combine the best traits of organic and inorganic LEDs -- products distinguished by their manufacturing processes.

The new method produces inorganic LEDs that can be produced cheaply and flexibly, like organic LEDs. By using semiconductor layers and printing-based assembly methods, the devices are deposited on substrates of glass, plastic, or rubber, in arbitrary spatial layouts and over areas that can be very large, such as the length of a bus. According to the paper's abstract, "Diverse shapes are possible, with dimensions from micrometers to millimeters, in either flat or "wavy configurations."

So, rather than having an optoelectronic billboard on the side of a bus, the new process can create an LED-laden film that can be pressed against the windows of a bus, contouring to the curves, and also allowing passengers to see out of the windows.

Although the new inorganic LEDs are more costly to make on an individual basis than organic ones, the overall cost of building these types of displays should be cheaper because less material will be used.

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The resulting device is a thin, flexible array that's much brighter than conventional organic LED arrays and could offer new possibilities, such as weaving the electronics into fabric.