OLED buttons illuminate textiles
The versatile OLEDs can not only light in colour, they can also be designed in any shape and be made transparent or dimmable so they could progressively come to sight onto garments as they light up. The O-Button, as researchers at Fraunhofer FEP call the new OLED form factor, will be demonstrated at the Electronics System Integration Technology Conference ESTC 2018 from September 18 – 21, 2018 in Dresden.
Applications may not be limited to fashion trends but also to create distinctive brand and design elements.
OLED design and integration specialist in the field of flexible organic electronics at Fraunhofer FEP, Jan Hesse says the integration of luminous elements in clothing not only freshens up fashion designs, it can also create very concrete benefits: Luminous logos or applications are more easily noticed and considerably increase the visibility and thus the safety of the wearer, e.g. in road traffic. Their use would be conceivable, for example in workwear for night logistics.
Since researchers can adapt OLEDs to specific wavelength ranges, special applications such as in medicine are also conceivable. Infrared light, for example, is successful in the therapy of skin diseases. Shirts could be designed with integrated flat infrared lights for light therapy.
To simplify the integration of such OLED elements in clothing, the O-button combines a wafer-thin foil-based OLED with a microcontroller on a conventional circuit board. The button-shaped circuit board is attached to the textile with conductive yarn and can be supplied or controlled with electrical power. The OLED itself is continuously dimmable. Two-colour-variable variants of the button are available for now, but there are almost no limits to the structuring of OLEDs so they could be cut to any size or shape.
Fraunhofer FEP provides samples of finished textiles integrated with the O-Button so designers can get creative and open up new fields of application. The research institute can convert individualized designs into initial prototypes and can offer partnerships up to pilot production.
Washability or recyclability are still a work in progress and the researchers expect the first OLED-based fashion garments to be on display in stores within the next three years.
Fraunhofer FEP – www.fep.fraunhofer.de