Inorganic LEDs are bright and long-lasting, but they're costly, thick, and difficult to manufacture. Organic LEDs are cheaper and easier to make, thinner, and can be applied to flexible surfaces. The new process combines the best of both worlds.
"Our goal is to marry some of the advantages of inorganic LED technology with the scalability, ease of processing and resolution of organic LEDs," said Rogers. "By printing large arrays of ultrathin, ultrasmall inorganic LEDs and interconnecting them using thin-film processing, we can create general lighting and high-resolution display systems that otherwise could not be built with the conventional ways that inorganic LEDs are made, manipulated, and assembled."
The technology could pave the way for TV screens that you roll up and brake light indicators that fit the contour of your car.
One especially promising use for flexible LED sheets lies in the medical field. "Wrapping a stretchable sheet of tiny LEDs around the human body offers interesting opportunities in biomedicine and biotechnology," said Rogers, "including applications in health monitoring, diagnostics, and imaging."