The future of foldable displays does not seem too far away. Only yesterday did LG unveil plans for mass production of world’s first flexible plastic e-paper and now researchers from the University of Toronto have showcased the most energy efficient, flexible OLED plastic surface engineered till date. This open up endless possibilities for a future, where gadgets and smartphones with screens that fold and displays that you can roll up in your living room are a very real and distinct possibility.
OLED displays are already highly energy efficient but do have a drawback of being expensive. That is a dampener for both manufacturers and consumers alike. But the new flexible plastic also paves way for cheaper displays and hence eventually gadgets that will cost a lot less. This breakthrough OLED plastic was made by a team led by Michael Helander and Zhibin Wang and the most astonishing part of the story is the accidental nature of the invention.
The students at the lab were cleaning indium tin oxide sheets, which are a common component of OLED displays and as they started experimenting with these displays, they suddenly found them to be a lot more efficient and bright than ever before. The key to this startling improvement lay in the Chlorine that was used as by the students, in the form of a cleaning agent. The team found that addition of Chlorine molecules to the OLED plastic made it a lot more efficient, tougher and flexible in nature.
The team then went back to the basic design of the OLED displays and started working on these lines to develop a new OLED plastic that ultimately led to the devices which are both cost-effective and malleable. This new technology offers another stepping stone to ODM firms to integrate more flexible, cheaper and efficient OLED displays into Smartphones, laptops and even flat-screen television sets of tomorrow. While we are still some way away from a television that you can roll up or smartphone panel that can be folded, the journey is well on its way.