Brighter Flexible Lighting Devices

An flexible device with transparent electrode fabricated on PET substrate undergoing increasing bending (Source: U Exeter)

An flexible device with transparent electrode fabricated on PET substrate undergoing increasing bending (Source: U Exeter)

Researchers from the University of Exeter have pioneered an innovative new technique to make flexible screens more effective and efficient. A team of Engineers and Physicists from Exeter have discovered that Graph­Exeter, a material adapted from graphene, can substan­tially improve the effective­ness of large, flat, flexible lighting.

By using GraphExeter, the most transparent, lightweight and flexible material for conducting electricity, instead of pure grapheme, the team have increased the brightness of flexible lights by up to almost 50 %. The research has also shown that using Graph­Exeter makes the lights 30 % more efficient than existing examples of flexible lighting, which are based on state-of-the-art commercial polymers.

In 2012 the teams of Monica Craciun and Saverio Russo, from the University of Exeter’s Centre for Graphene Science, discovered that sandwiched molecules of ferric chloride between two graphene layers make a whole new system that is more than a thousand times a better conductor of electri­city than graphene and by far the best known trans­parent material able to conduct electricity. The same team have now discovered that Graph­Exeter is also more stable than many transparent conductors commonly used by, for example, the display industry.

The research team believe the new approach could help signi­ficantly improve the viability of the next generation of flexible screens, which could be used for display screens, smart­phones, wearable elec­tronic devices, such as clothing containing computers or MP3 players. One of the lead researchers, University of Exeter physicist Saverio Russo, said: “This exciting development shows there is a bright future for the use of Graph­Exeter in transf­orming flexible lighting on a mass scale, and could help revolu­tionize the elec­tronics industry. Not only are lights that utilize Graph­Exeter much brighter, they are also far more resilient to repeated flexing, which makes bendy screens much more feasible for day to day goods such as mobile phones.”

Currently, flexible screens are still in their infancy and although they are useable, the size of the screens are limited by the materials used for mass production, which can cause a visible gradient of brightness as the size of screen increases. By substi­tuting graphene for Graph­Exeter, the team of researchers were able to create a lit screen that showed a far greater and more consistent light than has previously been possible. Further­more, the screens were more resi­lient to continued flexing, meaning that they have a longer shelf-life before needing to be replaced.

Monica Craciun added: “The next step will be to embed these ultra-flexible Graph­Exeter lights on textile fibres and pioneer ground-breaking appli­cations in health care light therapy.” (Source: U Exeter)

Reference: E. T. Alonso et al.: Homogeneously Bright, Flexible, and Foldable Lighting Devices with Functionalized Graphene Electrodes, ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, online 14 June 2016, DOI: 10.1021/acsami.6b04042

Link: Centre for Graphene Science, College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, University of Exeter, United Kingdom

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