Image courtesy of Wang Group

Researchers have designed a thin, digital display that can bend in half or stretch to more than twice its original length while still emitting a fluorescent pattern. The material has a wide range of applications, from wearable electronics and health sensors to foldable computer screens.

The team developed atomic models of the new polymers of interest and, with these models, simulated what happens to these molecules when you pull on them and try to bend them. A key feature in their design was the use of “thermally activated delayed fluorescence,” which let the materials convert electrical energy into light, in a highly efficient way. This third-generation mechanism for organic emitters can provide materials with performance on par with commercial OLED technologies.

Bendable materials that emit light can be integrated into wearable sensors that require light such as measuring blood oxygenation and heart rate. A bendable light-up material also could be integrated into implantable devices, such as those that use light to control the activity of neurons in the brain. (Image credit: Wang Group/University of Chicago)

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