Graphene-based flexible display heralds big things for wearable electronics

Graphene based flexible displays are one step closer to production after UK organisations, the Cambridge Graphene Centre (CGC) and Plastic Logic, demonstrated a transistor-based flexible device. The two organisations claim that the prototype will accelerate the commercial development of graphene and pave the way for graphene based fully wearable and flexible devices.

Graphene is a two-dimensional material made up of sheets of carbon atoms and is among the strongest, most lightweight and flexible materials known.

The new prototype is similar to screens used in e-readers but uses flexible plastic instead of glass. The backplane of the display includes a graphene electrode.

Graphene is more flexible than conventional ceramic alternatives like indium-tin oxide (ITO) and more transparent than metal films and can be used to create bendable or foldable electronics. It can also be processed from solution so could be manufactured using printed and roll-to-roll manufacturing approaches.

To create more sophisticated displays the companies say a similar approach could incorporate liquid crystal (LCD) and organic light emitting diodes (OLED) technology to achieve full colour and video functionality. Lightweight flexible active-matrix backplanes may also be used for sensors, with digital medical imaging and gesture recognition applications already in development.

Professor Andrea Ferrari, director of the Cambridge Graphene Centre, said: “We are happy to see our collaboration with Plastic Logic resulting in the first graphene-based electrophoretic display exploiting graphene in its pixels’ electronics. This is a significant step forward to enable fully wearable and flexible devices.

This joint effort between Plastic Logic and the CGC was also recently boosted by a grant from the UK Technology Strategy Board, within the ‘realising the graphene revolution’ initiative. This will target the realisation of an advanced, full colour, OELD based display within the next 12 months.

The project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the EU’s Graphene Flagship.