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True-meaning Wearable Displays: Self-powered, Washable and Wearable
(Video: The washing process of wearing display module) When we think about clothes, they are usually formed with textiles and have to be both wearable and washable for daily use; however, smart clothing has had a problem with its power sources and moisture permeability, which causes the devices to malfunction. This problem has now been overcome by a KAIST research team, who developed a textile-based wearable display module technology that is washable and does not require an external power source. To ease out the problem of external power sources and enhance the practicability of wearable displays, Professor Kyung Cheol Choi from the School of Electrical Engineering and his team fabricated their wearing display modules on real textiles that integrated polymer solar cells (PSCs) with organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs). PSCs have been one of the most promising candidates for a next-generation power source, especially for wearable and optoelectronic applications because they can provide stable power without an external power source, while OLEDs can be driven with milliwatts. However, the problem was that they are both very vulnerable to external moisture and oxygen. The encapsulation barrier is essential for their reliability. The conventional encapsulation barrier is sufficient for normal environments; however, it loses its characteristics in aqueous environments, such as water. It limits the commercialization of wearing displays that must operate even on rainy days or after washing. To tackle this issue, the team employed a washable encapsulation barrier that can protect the device without losing its characteristics after washing through atomic layer deposition (ALD) and spin coating. With this encapsulation technology, the team confirmed that textile-based wearing display modules including PSCs, OLEDs, and the proposed encapsulation barrier exhibited little change in characteristics even after 20 washings with 10-minute cycles. Moreover, the encapsulated device operated stably with a low curvature radius of 3mm and boasted high reliability. Finally, it exhibited no deterioration in properties over 30 days even after being subjected to both bending stress and washing. Since it uses a less stressful textile, compared to conventional wearable electronic devices that use traditional plastic substrates, this technology can accelerate the commercialization of wearing electronic devices. Importantly, this wearable electronic device in daily life can save energy through a self-powered system. Professor Choi said, “I could say that this research realized a truly washable wearable electronic module in the sense that it uses daily wearable textiles instead of the plastic used in conventional wearable electronic devices. Saving energy with PSCs, it can be self-powered, using nature-friendly solar energy, and washed. I believe that it has paved the way for a ‘true-meaning wearable display’ that can be formed on textile, beyond the attachable form of wearable technology.” This research, in collaboration with Professor Seok Ho Cho from Chonnam National University and led by Eun Gyo Jeong, was published in Energy and Environmental Science (10.1039/c8ee03271h) on January 18, 2019. Figure 1. Schematic and photo of a washable wearing display module Figure 2. Cover page of Energy and Environmental Science
Get Treatment Anywhere and Any Time with Wearable PBM Patch
(PhD Candidate Yongmin Jeon) There have been many cases in which OLEDs are applied to electronic devices, and now they have even been extended to therapeutic fields. A KAIST research team succeeded in developing a wearable photobiomodulation (PBM) patch to treat wounds. This technology will allow injuries to be treated regardless of location or time. Professor KyungCheol Choi from the School of Electrical Engineering, in collaboration with Seoul National University Bundang Hospital’s team, conducted research on PBMs which are a clinical method widely used in hospitals. They are considered to be a safe, noninvasive, and nonsurgical method that require relatively low light power. Conventionally, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) have been used in PBM applications; however, LED devices are usually inflexible and difficult to irradiate light uniformly. They may also produce localized heat. Due to these constraints, it was difficult to enhance the clinical effects of LED devices as they cannot stick to the human body. Choi’s team developed a wearable patch using flexible OLEDs, allowing people to be treated outside of hospitals. A thin film has been developed for the patch, containing not only flexible OLEDs but also batteries and anti-superheating devices. Moreover, its thickness is less than 1mm and its weight is less than 1g. This lightweight and ultra-thin patch with a bending radius is 20mm can be used more than 300 hours. These patches are usable at a temperature below 42℃ to eliminate the risk of low-temperature burns. They also meet the safety regulations of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) at red wavelengths (600–700 nm). The wearable PBM patches showed excellent effects with in vitro wounds because they stimulated cell proliferation over 58% of control as well as cell migration over 46% of control under various conditions. Yongmin Jeon, who led this research, said, “The wearable PBM is effective and convenient, so people can simply purchase it at a pharmacy without having to visit a hospital. If we can adjust the power and wavelength of the OLEDs, its application can be extended to skin care, cancer treatment, Alzheimer’s disease treatment, and mental healthcare.” Professor Choi added, “We have applied the advantages of flexible OLEDs, which are often used for fabricating displays, to PBMs. This technology will open the way to commercialize portable and highly-efficient wearable photobiomodulation devices.” This research was published in the front cover of Advanced Materials Technologies on May, 2018. Figure 1. The patch attached to a human face, a hand and examples of treatment applications Figure 2. The migration of cells into the scratched area
Fiber OLEDs, Thinner Than a Hair
(Seonil Kwon, PhD Candidate) Professor Kyung Cheol Choi from the School of Electrical Engineering and his team succeeded in fabricating highly efficient Organic Light-Emitting Diodes (OLEDs) on an ultra-thin fiber. The team expects the technology, which produces high-efficiency, long-lasting OLEDs, can be widely utilized in wearable displays. Existing fiber-based wearable displays’ OLEDs show much lower performance compared to those fabricated on planar substrates. This low performance caused a limitation for applying it to actual wearable displays. In order to solve this problem, the team designed a structure of OLEDs compatible to fiber and used a dip-coating method in a three-dimensional structure of fibers. Through this method, the team successfully developed efficient OLEDs that are designed to last a lifetime and are still equivalent to those on planar substrates. The team identified that solution process planar OLEDs can be applied to fibers without any reduction in performance through the technology. This fiber OLEDs exhibited luminance and current efficiency values of over 10,000 cd/m^2(candela/square meter) and 11 cd/A (candela/ampere). The team also verified that the fiber OLEDs withstood tensile strains of up to 4.3% while retaining more than 90% of their current efficiency. In addition, they could be woven into textiles and knitted clothes without causing any problems. Moreover, the technology allows for fabricating OLEDs on fibers with diameters ranging from 300㎛ down to 90㎛, thinner than a human hair, which attests to the scalability of the proposed fabrication scheme. Noting that every process is carried out at a low temperature (~105℃), fibers vulnerable to high temperatures can also employ this fabrication scheme. Professor Choi said, “Existing fiber-based wearable displays had limitations for applicability due to their low performance. However, this technology can fabricate OLEDs with high performance on fibers. This simple, low-cost process opens a way to commercialize fiber-based wearable displays.” This research led by a PhD candidate Seonil Kwon was published online in the international journal for nanoscience, Nano Letters, on December 6. (Fiber-based OLEDs woven into knitted clothes) This work was funded by the Engineering Research Center of Excellence Program (Grant No. NRF-2017R1A5A1014708) and Nano-Material Technology Development Program (Grant No. NRF-2016M3A7B4910635) by the National Research Foundation of Korea, the Ministry of Science and ICT of Korea.
The Medici Effect: Highly Flexible, Wearable Displays Born in KAIST
(Ph.D. candidate Seungyeop Choi) How do you feel when technology you saw in a movie is made into reality? Collaboration between the electrical engineering and textile industries has made TVs or smartphone screens displaying on clothing a reality. A research team led by Professor Kyung Cheol Choi at the School of Electrical Engineering presented wearable displays for various applications including fashion, IT, and healthcare. Integrating OLED (organic light-emitting diode) into fabrics, the team developed the most highly flexible and reliable technology for wearable displays in the world. Recently, information displays have become increasingly important as they construct the external part of smart devices for the next generation. As world trends are focusing on the Internet of Things (IoTs) and wearable technology, the team drew a lot of attention by making great progress towards commercializing clothing-shaped ‘wearable displays’. The research for realizing displays on clothing gained considerable attention from academia as well as industry when research on luminescence formed in fabrics was introduced in 2011; however, there was no technology for commercializing it due to its surface roughness and flexibility. Because of this technical limitation, clothing-shaped wearable displays were thought to be unreachable technology. However, the KAIST team recently succeeded in developing the world’s most highly efficient, light-emitting clothes that can be commercialized. The research team used two different approaches, fabric-type and fiber-type, in order to realize clothing-shaped wearable displays. In 2015, the team successfully laminated a thin planarization sheet thermally onto fabric to form a surface that is compatible with the OLEDs approximately 200 hundred nanometers thick. Also, the team reported their research outcomes on enhancing the reliability of operating fiber-based OLEDs. In 2016, the team introduced a dip-coating method, capable of uniformly depositing layers, to develop polymer light-emitting diodes, which show high luminance even on thin fabric. Based on the research performance in 2015 and 2016, Ph.D. candidate Seungyeop Choi took the lead in the research team and succeeded in realizing fabric-based OLEDs, showing high luminance and efficiency while maintaining the flexibility of the fabric. The long-term reliability of this wearable device that has the world’s best electrical and optical characteristics was verified through their self-developed, organic and inorganic encapsulation technology. According to the team, their wearable device facilitates the operation of OLEDs even at a bending radius of 2mm. According to Choi, “Having wavy structures and empty spaces, fiber plays a significant role in lowering the mechanical stress on the OLEDs.” “Screen displayed on our daily clothing is no longer a future technology,” said Professor Choi. “Light-emitting clothes will have considerable influence on not only the e-textile industry but also the automobile and healthcare industries.” Moreover, the research team remarked, “It means a lot to realize clothing-shaped OLEDs that have the world’s best luminance and efficiency. It is the most flexible fabric-based light-emitting device among those reported. Moreover, noting that this research carried out an in-depth analysis of the mechanical characteristics of the clothing-spared, light-emitting device, the research performance will become a guideline for developing the fabric-based electronics industry.” This research was funded by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and collaborated with KOLON Glotech, INC. The research performance was published in Scientific Reports in July. (OLEDs operating in fabrics) (Current-voltage-luminance and efficiency of the highly flexible, fabric-based OLEDs;Image of OLEDs after repetitive bending tests;Verification of flexibility through mechanical simulation)
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