Ultrathin, highly flexible and stretchable PLEDs

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We demonstrate ultrathin (2 µm thick) red and orange polymer light-emitting diodes with unprecedented mechanical properties in terms of their flexibility and ability to be stretched. The devices have a luminance greater than 100 cd m–2, sufficient for a variety of optoelectronic applications including indoor displays. They can be operated as free-standing ultrathin films, allowing for crumpling during device operation. Furthermore, they may be applied to almost any surface whether rigid or elastomeric, and can withstand the associated mechanical deformation. They are shown to be extremely flexible, with radii of curvature under 10 µm, and stretch-compatible to 100% tensile strain. Such ultrathin light-emitting foils constitute an important step towards integration with malleable materials like textiles and artificial skin.

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Figure 1: Electrical and optical characterization of ultrathin PLEDs.
Figure 2: Demonstrations of extreme deformation attainable with ultrathin PLEDs.
Figure 3: Wrinkling and folding of PLED films during compression.


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The authors thank Pütz GmbH & Co. Folien KG for the ultrathin substrates. This work was partially funded by the ERC Advanced Investigators Grant ‘SoftMap’ and the JST–ERATO Someya Bio-Harmonized Electronics grant. The authors are grateful to the Austrian FWF for financial support through the Wittgenstein Award. N.S.S. and M.S.W. acknowledge financial support from the J-RISE (JST) Yamagata University–Johannes Kepler University collaboration. D.A.M.E. and C.U. acknowledge the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) for financial support in the framework of SPP 1355. S.A. acknowledges support from the African Network for Solar Energy (ANSOLE) for enabling her stay at LIOS under the framework of the ANEX-Program. The authors thank J. Reeder, P. Stadler and P. Denk for their contributions.

Author information

D.A.M.E. and C.U. conceived and synthesized the light-emitting polymer. M.S.W., M.K., E.D.G., K.G. and S.A. fabricated and characterized devices. G.K., K.G. and I.G. processed ultrathin substrates and assisted with device demonstrations. M.S.W., M.K. and S.B. wrote the manuscript and prepared figures, with contributions from all authors. M.C.M. and Z.M. performed the quantitative mechanical analysis. Ta.S., Ts.S., M.C.S., S.B. and N.S.S. supervised the project and advised on device optimization.

Correspondence to Matthew S. White.

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White, M., Kaltenbrunner, M., Głowacki, E. et al. Ultrathin, highly flexible and stretchable PLEDs. Nature Photon 7, 811–816 (2013) doi:10.1038/nphoton.2013.188

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