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Samsung develops stretchable OLED ‘skin’ that can measure and display heart rate

By Tekato Longkumer Updated: Jun 07, 2021 10:30 pm
The SAIT research team that demonstrated the viability of stretchable devices: SAIT Organic Material Lab principal researcher Jong Won Chung (co-first author), principal researcher Youngjun Yun (corresponding author) and staff researcher Yeongjun Lee (co-first author). Photo: Samsung.

Dimapur, June 7 (EMN): South Korean tech giant Samsung has announced its latest breakthrough in flexible display technology — a stretchable OLED electronic skin.

In a blog post, Samsung announced that researchers at the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT), the company’s R&D hub, has developed a ‘stretchable electronic skin’ that can measure and display a user’s heart rate in real-time. It is basically a stretchable OLED display that can be attached to the wrist and is fitted with a photoplethysmography (PPG) sensor to monitor the heartbeat of the user.

According to Samsung, the ‘stretchable electronic skin’ can provide more accurate measurements than other existing wearables even after being stretched 1,000 times.

Samsung's stretchable OLED skin
Photo: Samsung.

The company is convinced about the commercialisation potential of stretchable devices through these trials and expects widespread adoption of stretchable devices in the future.

Researchers were able to replace the traditional plastic used in existing displays with a modified ‘elastomer’ — a material with high elasticity and resilience. The ‘elastomer’ was modified heavily to make it more resistant to chemicals and heat so as to enable fitting health-tracking sensors and semiconductors directly into the display. Samsung claims this is a first for the industry.

“The system developed by the SAIT team is the first in the sector to implement a display and sensor using photolithography processes that enable micro-patterning and large-area processing,” wrote Samsung.

Samsung‘s researchers claim that its ‘stretchable electronic skin’ adapts better to movement when applied to the skin. They claim that wrist movement did not cause any deterioration in the device’s performance, even after being stretched to 30%. Apparently, even after intensive movement tests, the device was able to pick up a heartbeat signal 2.4 times stronger than a traditional fixed silicon sensor.

Samsung's stretchable OLED skin process
Photo: Samsung.

Samsung‘s breakthrough should be taken as a positive for display technology. This could pave the way for flexible displays being used for all sorts of commercial and healthcare products.

“Our research is still in the early stages, but our goal is to realize and commercialise stretchable devices by increasing system resolution, stretchability, and measurement accuracy to a level that makes mass production possible,” said principal researcher Jong Won Chung.

“In addition to the heartbeat sensor that was applied in this test case, we plan to incorporate stretchable sensors and high-resolution freeform displays to enable users to monitor things like peripheral oxygen saturation, electromyogram readings and blood pressure,” Jong Won Chung stated.

For now, the researchers are back in the lab to try and improve on the display resolution, stretchability, and measurement accuracy to make these devices fit for mass production.

By Tekato Longkumer Updated: Jun 07, 2021 10:30:59 pm