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Hybrid OLED creates innovative, functional bright surfaces

22 Feb 2019

Effort by Fraunhofer FEP, EMDE and PISCALE project yields OLED-woven clothing – with further potential.

Up to now, OLEDs have been used exclusively as a novel lighting technology for use in luminaires and lamps. However, flexible organic technology can offer much more: as an active lighting surface, it can be combined with a wide variety of materials to revolutionize the functionality and design of many existing products.

To exemplify this, the Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology (FEP), Dresden, Germany, together with the company EMDE Development Of Light will be presenting hybrid flexible organic light-emitting diode (OLEDs) integrated into textile designs at the LOPEC printed electronics exhibition (March 19-21, 2019, in Munich, Germany) as examples of new applications.

These outputs have arisen from within the EU-funded project PI-SCALE and will be presented next month in public for the first time.

To demonstrate the potential of employing low profile and flexible OLEDs, the designers at EMDE are integrating flexible OLEDs into a motorcycle jacket. The firm commented, “Used as a material for clothing, OLEDs not only can trigger completely new aesthetic trends, they can also provide active illumination instead of just limited reflectance. This enhanced visibility from all angles means the wearer can be seen more clearly, increasing rider safety.”

This is made possible by fabricating the OLEDs on flexible substrates such as plastic films and connecting them to conductive threading for their supply of electrical power. Together with the HOLST Center in Eindhoven, the Fraunhofer FEP has extended the approach of this technology for the OLED on the joint pilot line service LYTEUS within the EU-funded hybrid OLED PI-SCALE project.

Claudia Keibler-Willner, head of department at the Fraunhofer FEP, commented, “We have taken a major step forward in economical fabrication processes for OLEDs. The results are impressive: the OLED shines very uniformly. The use of the roll-to-roll process also promises considerable cost reductions for future components. By combining printed and vaporized layers, process throughput and production speed can be increased up to 100 times.”

‘Clear advantages’

The partners add that there are “clear advantages” for designers as a result – infinitely long materials with practically unrestricted dimensions and configurations can be created. The only limitation currently is the 300mm roll width of the substrate material.

Thomas Emde of EMDE Development of Light added, “After examining the first samples, we decided on a prototype that would combine imagination with a practical application. We exhibit a few meters of the hybrid OLED in its raw form from the roll as a pure material component.

“Its transformation into a future product is illustrated through the example of our eye-catching motorcycle jacket with luminous, integrated, flexible OLEDs. This will demonstrate the potential of OLEDs as an innovative surface material for interior design and product applications, fashion and textile designs, and architectural and signage uses.”

The Fraunhofer FEP and EMDE teams intend to tackle challenges of fabrication and integration of OLEDs with different surfaces jointly in the future and are open to further development projects with industrial partners.

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