pixels             …everywhere.

Tag: Qibing Pei

Stretchable Light

by on Aug.31, 2011, under fashion, interior design, LED/OLED, technology

I’ve blogged several times about wearable pixels as well as pixels for interior design and architecture.

But for the world to be a canvas for digital light, digital light must conform to the world as it is — a world of moving shapes and forms. Forms that bend, shift and stretch. Projected light does this, but it can be limited by ambient light, sight lines, the color of the surface, and projector positioning issues. Pixels from projected light are really reflected pixels.

But what if the digital canvas could directly emit light, not just reflect it? That would open up a huge number of ways to use digital light.  Recently I posted about work at the University of Illinois-Urbana  where electronic circuits, including circuits with LEDs, could be put directly on the surface of the skin and other flexible surfaces.

stretchable polymer LED

Now, we’ve learned about the work of Dr. Qibing Pei his team at UCLA. The picture shows a blue light emitting surface being stretched 45%. The stretching is reversible.

This is a really important step forward.  So far, we’ve mostly seen bendable light, but those approaches were usually brittle –and bendable isn’t the same as stretchable. The UCLA team solved this by  fabricating transparent electrodes that included single-walled conductive carbon nanotubes and polymer composite electrodes in an  interpenetrating network  of nanotubes and polymer. This created a combined electrode with low sheet resistance, high transparency, high compliance and low surface roughness. They sandwiched a light emitting plastic between two of these new electrodes, applied current, and created stretchable light.

The pictures show a single stretchable light emitting surface…essentially one pixel. But this is just the beginning. Image this scaled up into large numbers of tiny, colorful, controllable, malleable pixels.

It’s early days yet, but imagine this being applied to wall coverings, furniture, curtains, clothes. It all depends on how rugged, scalable –and of course inexpensive– this process will ultimately become.  It’s no stretch (bad pun) to say this could be a big step forward to the pixels-everywhere future.

You can read the UCLA press release here.

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