In addition to its next-generation folding screens with new form factors, Samsung is working on displays that are much more flexible. As part of its latest breakthrough, the Korean company says it has developed an OLED display for the skin, with a built-in heart rate monitor that can be stretched by up to 30 percent.
According to Samsung, early-stage technology provides more accurate measurements than existing wearables for longer periods of time. Remarkably, the electronics giant is convinced that its trials could pave the way for the commercialization of large-resolution high-resolution extensions – which it expects to appear in all types of health products.
As described in detail in a new peer-reviewed study in the journal Scientific progress, a team of researchers from the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT), the company̵
As you would expect, most fixed-form devices usually break down or disintegrate with such intense physical manipulation. To overcome this technical hurdle, the researchers replaced the plastic material used in existing expansion displays with an elastomer, an advanced material with high elasticity and resilience. They then changed its molecular composition to increase its heat resistance and relieve the stress caused by elongation, which allows them to integrate a semiconductor into their device.
The team also applied a stretchable electrode material (cracked metal) that resists deformation in the elastomer area. According to researcher Yongjun Lee, this “allows the spaces and wiring electrodes between the pixels to stretch and contract without the OLED pixels themselves being deformed.”
By making the elastomer more resistant to chemicals and heat, the team says it has effectively demonstrated that extensions can be equipped with health monitors and semiconductors – similar to those found in current wearables such as the Apple Watch.
Improving themselves, they claim that their flexible device adapts better to movement by fixing itself on the user’s skin. This makes it possible to continuously measure the heart rate with a greater degree of sensitivity. During their tests, they found that wrist movement did not impair performance, even when the device was stretched by up to 30 percent. And despite the activity, he apparently managed to pick up a heart rate signal that was 2.4 times stronger than a fixed silicon sensor.
For now, the team is returning to the lab to upgrade the technological resolution, flexibility and tracking accuracy to a level suitable for mass production. In the future, they plan to use flexible displays to monitor peripheral oxygen saturation, electromyogram readings and blood pressure.
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