Fitness trackers in the future may stick to our bodies like a Band-Aid.
Samsung may be at the forefront of folding and sliding display technology, but the company’s researchers are also working on displays that can be extended (even as of 2017), and we’re starting to see working prototypes. are doing.
This week, Samsung revealed a stretchable OLED display that acts as a heart rate sensor. The wrist-mounted device features a photoplethysmography (PPG) heart rate sensor and OLED screen, which allows for real-time heartbeat monitoring. The research team was able to stretch the device 1,000 times (30% elongation) without damage, as well as recording a heartbeat signal that was “2.4 times stronger than that picked up by a fixed silicon sensor.” ” is.
The stretchable device, which Samsung refers to as the “stretchable electronic skin” form factor, was developed by lead researcher Jong Won Chung, lead researcher Yangjun Yun and staff researcher Yeongjun in the Organic Materials Lab at the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT). I went. Lee.
“The strength of this technology is that it allows you to measure your biometric data over a long period of time, to remove the solution while you sleep or exercise, as the patch feels like part of your skin. You can also view your biometric data right away on the screen without having to transfer it to an external device,” Yoon explained. “The technology could be expanded to be used in wearable health products for adults, children and infants, as well as patients with certain diseases.”
The key to unlocking electronic devices that tackle stretching is to replace plastic parts with elastomers, which offer elasticity and flexibility while still adapting to existing semiconductor manufacturing processes. The elastomer is susceptible to heat, but this was overcome by strengthening the material’s thermal resistance by “stitching its molecular structure”.
The fitness trackers and health monitors we wear today are solid items that we need to remove regularly, for example a smartwatch, and offer limited monitoring performance. Moving to stretchable versions allows for “closer adhesion to the skin,” which means enhanced monitoring and a more comfortable feel you might even forget about being worn. Think of health monitors of the future more like adhesive bandages than worn out accessories.
“Our research is still in the early stages, but we aim to realize and commercialize stretchable devices by increasing system resolution, stretchability and measurement accuracy to a level that makes mass production possible,” explained Chung. “In addition to the heartbeat sensor implemented in this test case, we plan to incorporate stretchable sensors and high-resolution freeform displays to enable users to monitor things such as peripheral oxygen saturation, electromyogram readings and blood pressure. are.”