Technology

GraphExeter Material Means Bright Future for Flexible Lighting Devices

graphene flexible

Researchers from the University of Exeter have come up with a new technique that makes flexible screens more effective and efficient. A team of engineers and physicists from the University have found that GraphExeter, which is a material adapted from the ‘wonder material’ graphene, can greatly improve the effectiveness of large, flat and flexible lighting.

GraphExeter is the most transparent, lightweight and flexible material when it comes to conducting electricity. By reaching for these new material and not pure graphene, the team was able to increase the brightness of flexible lights by up to just about 50 percent. The research has also shown that by using GraphExeter, lights are 30 percent more efficient when compared to existing examples of flexible lighting, which are currently based on state of the art commercial polymers.

The team believes that the breakthrough in lighting technology may be able to help improve the viability of the next generation of flexible screens, which could be used for display screens, smart phones, and wearable electronic devices which would include clothing with computer screens or MP3 players attached.

Dr. Saverio Russo, one of the lead researchers in the study says this exciting development shows that there is a bright future for the use of GraphExeter in transforming flexible lighting on a mass scale, and could help revolutionize the electronics industry. Not only are lights that utilize GraphExeter far brighter, they are also far more resilient to repeated flexing, which makes bendable screens much more feasible for day to day goods such as mobile phones.

Flexible screens are still in their infancy and while they are usable in their current state, the size of the screens are extremely limited by the materials used for their mass production, which can cause a visible gradient of brightness as the size of the screen gets larger. This technology has a long way to go to meet the standards of the general public.

When graphene was substituted for GraphExeter, the team of researchers was able to build a lit screen that showed a much larger and consistent amount of light than was possible in the past. The screens were also far more resilient to continued flexing, so they would have a much longer shelf life before needing to be swapped out for a new version.

Dr. Monica Cracium from the University of Exeter says the next step will be to embed these ultra-flexible GraphExeter lights on textile fibers and pioneer ground breaking applications in health care light therapy. At a mere one atom thick, graphene is the thinnest substance that holds the capability of conducting electricity. It is really flexible and is one of the strongest known materials on the planet. The race started long ago for scientists and engineers to be able to adapt graphene for flexible electronics. This has proven to be quite the challenge due to its sheet resistance. Graphene dissipates very large amounts of energy.

graphexeter
GraphExeter is a graphene-based material. (Image credit: University of Exeter)

Back in 2012, the teams of Dr. Craciun and Professor Russo from the University of Exeter’s Centre for Graphene Science found that sandwiched molecules of ferric chloride between two graphene layers make a whole new system that is more than a thousand times a better conductor of electricity than graphene and by far the best known transparent material able to conduct electricity. The team has recently discovered that GraphExeter is also much more stable than many transparent conductors commonly used by industries such as the display industry.

Studies are planned to continue for quite some time, and researchers are looking forward to expanding this technology and finding even more ways to use this technology to benefit the human race. Things like this take time and a lot of patience so a timeline is not something scientists and engineers are quite ready to address publicly. All they can say is there are bound to be a lot of fascinating findings that the general public will be able to enjoy for many years to come.

The complete study has been published in ACS Material and Interfaces, where it can be read in full.