Ultrathin organic material enhances e-skin display

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Credit: Someya Laboratory

University of Tokyo researchers have developed an ultrathin, ultraflexible, protective layer and demonstrated its use by creating an air-stable, organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display. This technology will enable creation of electronic skin (e-skin) displays of blood oxygen level, e-skin heart rate sensors for athletes and many other applications.

Integrating electronic devices with the human body to enhance or restore body function for biomedical applications is the goal of researchers around the world. In particular, wearable electronics need to be thin and flexible to minimize impact where they attach to the body. However, most devices developed so far have required millimeter-scale thickness glass or plastic substrates with limited flexibility, while micrometer-scale thin flexible organic devices have not been stable enough to survive in air.

The research group of Professor Takao Someya and Dr. Tomoyuki Yokota at the University of Tokyo's Graduate School of Engineering has developed a high-quality protective film less than two micrometers thick that enables the production of ultrathin, ultraflexible, high performance wearable electronic displays and other devices. The group developed the protective film by alternating layers of inorganic (Silicon Oxynitrite) and organic (Parylene) material. The protective film prevented passage of oxygen and water vapor in the air, extending device lifetimes from the few hours seen in prior research to several days. In addition, the research group were able to attach transparent indium tin oxide (ITO) electrodes to an ultrathin substrate without damaging it, making the e-skin display possible.

Using the new protective layer and ITO electrodes, the research group created polymer light-emitting diodes (PLEDs) and organic photodetectors (OPDs). These were thin enough to be attached to the skin and flexible enough to distort and crumple in response to body movement. The PLEDs were just three micrometers thick and over six times more efficient than previously reported ultrathin PLEDs. This reduced heat generation and power consumption, making them particularly suitable for direct attachment to the body for medical applications such as displays for blood oxygen concentration or pulse rate. The research group also combined red and green PLEDs with a photodetector to demonstrate a blood oxygen sensor.

"The advent of mobile phones has changed the way we communicate. While these communication tools are getting smaller and smaller, they are still discrete devices that we have to carry with us," says Someya. He continues, "What would the world be like if we had displays that could adhere to our bodies and even show our emotions or level of stress or unease? In addition to not having to carry a device with us at all times, they might enhance the way we interact with those around us or add a whole new dimension to how we communicate."

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Journal article/Conference paper

Tomoyuki Yokota, Peter Zalar, Martin Kaltenbrunner, Hiroaki Jinno, Naoji Matsuhisa, Hiroki Kitanosako, Yutaro Tachibana, Wakako Yukita, Mari Koizumi, Takao Someya, "Ultraflexible organic photonic skin," Science Advances 2:e1501856, 15 April 2016. URL (abstract): http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.1501856 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1501856

Links

The University of Tokyo

Graduate School of Engineering

Someya Group Organic Transistor Lab

ERATO Someya Bio-Harmonized Electronics Project

Research contact

Professor Takao Someya
Department of Electrical Engineering and Information Systems
Graduate School of Engineering
The University of Tokyo, Hongo 7-3-1, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-8656, Japan
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +81-3-5841-0411/6756
Fax: +81-3-5841-6709

Press officer contact

Graduate School of Engineering Public Relations Office
The University of Tokyo
The University of Tokyo, Hongo 7-3-1, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-8656, Japan
Tel: 03-5841-1790
Fax: 03-5841-0529
Email: [email protected]

Funding

Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) Exploratory Research for Advanced Technology (ERATO) Someya Bio-Harmonized Electronics Project

About the University of Tokyo

The University of Tokyo is Japan's leading university and one of the world's top research universities. The vast research output of some 6,000 researchers is published in the world's top journals across the arts and sciences. Our vibrant student body of around 15,000 undergraduate and 15,000 graduate students includes over 2,000 international students. Find out more at http://www.u-tokyo.ac.jp/en/ or follow us on Twitter at @UTokyo_News_en.

Media Contact

Takao Someya
[email protected]
81-358-410-411
@UTokyo_News_en

http://www.u-tokyo.ac.jp

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