In addition to its next-generation folding screens with new form factors, Samsung is working on much more flexible displays. As part of its latest breakthrough, the Korean company claims it has developed an OLED skin display, with an integrated heart rate monitor, which can be stretched up to 30%.
According to Samsung, the early stage technology provides more accurate measurements than existing wearables for longer periods of time. In particular, the electronics giant is convinced that its trials can pave the way for the commercialization of extendable devices with large, high-resolution screens, which it expects to emerge in all types of healthcare products.
As detailed in a new peer-reviewed study in the journal Science advancesa team of researchers from Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT), the company’s research and development hub, has created a wearable device with a flexible screen that provides stable measurements even after being stretched 1,000 times.
As you’d expect, most fixed form devices typically fail or fall apart under such an intense amount of physical manipulation. To overcome this technical hurdle, the researchers replaced the plastic material used in existing stretchable displays with elastomer, an advanced material with high elasticity and resilience. They then modified its molecular composition to increase its heat resistance and relieve stress caused by stretching, allowing them to integrate a semiconductor into their gadget.
The team also applied a stretchable electrode material (cracked metal) that resists deformation in the elastomer area. According to researcher Yeongjun Lee, this “allowed the wiring gaps and electrodes between the pixels to stretch and shrink without the OLED pixels themselves deforming.”
By making the elastomer more resistant to chemicals and heat, the team says they have effectively demonstrated that stretchable devices can be equipped with sensors and semiconductors for health monitoring, similar to those found inside current wearable devices. like the Apple Watch.
Going better, they claim that their flexible device adapts better to movement by attaching itself to the wearer’s skin. This makes continuous heart rate measurements possible with a higher degree of sensitivity. During their tests, they found that wrist movement caused no deterioration in performance, even though the device was stretched by up to 30%. And despite the activity, it apparently managed to pick up a heartbeat signal 2.4 times stronger than a fixed silicon sensor.
For now, the team is returning to the lab to upgrade the technology’s resolution, flexibility and tracking accuracy to a level suitable for mass production. In the future, they expect flexible displays to be used to monitor peripheral oxygen saturation, EMG readings, and blood pressure.
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