The QLED display can fold similarly to origami into user-defined shapes such as butterflies, pyramids, and a paper airplane. It can also transform from 2D to 3D, providing a dynamic display of information. (Image Credit: Institute for Basic Science Nanoparticle Research Center)
Researchers at the Institute for Basic Science Nanoparticle Research Center unveiled a QLED 3D display capable of folding like origami. The team managed to fold it into different structures, including butterflies, pyramids, and a paper airplane. They already have a few applications in mind for this device, such as electronic newspapers and tablet PCs.
However, you’ll discover that the device isn’t actually as complex and versatile as real origami. It essentially requires a pre-defined shape to transform into a certain structure. For example, if it has a butterfly-shaped display, then it folds into a butterfly.
The team provided folding capabilities to the planar QLED by devising a new fabrication process that partially etches the epoxy film set on the QLED surface without harming the QLED underneath. They used a power-controllable carbon dioxide pulsed laser and the silver-aluminum alloy-based etch-stop layers to precisely control the etching depth. Since the device’s laser-etched region is thinner than the surrounding area, it etches out deformation lines, allowing the display to fold like origami.
Based on this technique, the team precisely controlled the curvature’s radius down to under 50 micrometers. The tiny curvature radius provided the fold line with a sharp edge that doesn’t have any visible curvature. Through mechanical simulation to engineer the device, they also minimized the strain loaded on the light-emitting components.
Unfortunately, some limitations are holding the foldable origami display back. For instance, the team says you can fold and unfold the QLED display over 500 times without seeing performance degradation. That still pales compared to conventional folding screens on commercial devices. In that context, Samsung stated that its Galaxy Fold device folds and unfolds 200,000 times without performance loss.
Additionally, this device features a low-resolution 64-pixel screen, a disappointment for those who want VGA-quality screens. The researchers also said they want to increase the resolution in the future. Although the tech is in the early stages of development, it could still be used in commercial products once the reliability and resolution drawbacks are solved.
“We were able to build a 3D foldable QLED that can be freely folded just like a paper artwork”, said KIM Dae-Hyeong, the vice-director of the Center for Nanoparticle Research. He also said, “By fabricating the passively driven, 3D foldable QLED arrays composed of 64 individual pixels, we have shown the possibility of developing displays with greater complexity in the future.” HYEON Taeghwan, the director of the Center for Nanoparticle Research, states that “Through the technology reported in this research, paper-like QLEDs that can be folded into various complex structures have been successfully fabricated. Who knows when the day will come when electronic paper with a display unit can replace real paper?”
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