With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) era, strong demand has grown for wearable and transparent displays that can be applied to various fields such as augmented reality (AR) and skin-like thin flexible devices. However, previous flexible transparent displays have posed real challenges to overcome, which are, among others, poor transparency and low electrical performance. To improve the transparency and performance, past research efforts have tried to use inorganic-based electronics, but the fundamental thermal instabilities of plastic substrates have hampered the high temperature process, an essential step necessary for the fabrication of high performance electronic devices.
As a solution to this problem, a research team led by Professors Keon Jae Lee and Sang-Hee Ko Park of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has developed ultrathin and transparent oxide thin-film transistors (TFT) for an active-matrix backplane of a flexible display by using the inorganic-based laser lift-off (ILLO) method. Professor Lee’s team previously demonstrated the ILLO technology for energy-harvesting
This image shows ultrathin, flexible, and transparent oxide thin-film transistors produced via the ILLO process.
The research team fabricated a high-performance oxide TFT array on top of a sacrificial laser-reactive substrate. After laser irradiation from the backside of the substrate, only the oxide TFT arrays were separated from the sacrificial substrate as a result of reaction between laser and laser-reactive layer, and then subsequently transferred onto ultrathin plastics (4μm thickness). Finally, the transferred ultrathin-oxide driving circuit for the flexible display was attached conformally to the surface of human skin to demonstrate the possibility of the wearable application. The attached oxide TFTs showed high optical transparency of 83% and mobility of 40 cm^2 V^(-1) s^(-1) even under several cycles of severe bending tests.
Professor Lee said, “By using our ILLO process, the technological barriers for high performance transparent flexible displays have been overcome at a relatively low cost by removing expensive polyimide substrates. Moreover, the high-quality oxide semiconductor can be easily transferred onto skin-like or any flexible substrate for wearable application.”
Flexible transparent display is a promising candidate to visually communicate with each other in the future Internet of Things era. The flexible oxide thin-film transistors (TFTs) have attracted attention as a component for transparent display by its high performance and high transparency. The critical issue of flexible oxide TFTs for practical display applications, however, is the realization on transparent and flexible substrate without any damage and characteristic degradation. Here, the ultrathin, flexible, and transparent oxide TFTs for skin-like displays are demonstrated on an ultrathin flexible substrate using an inorganic-based laser liftoff process. In this way, skin-like ultrathin oxide TFTs are conformally attached onto various fabrics and human skin surface without any structural damage. Ultrathin flexible transparent oxide TFTs show high optical transparency of 83% and mobility of 40 cm2 V−1 s−1. The skin-like oxide TFTs show reliable performance under the electrical/optical stress tests and mechanical bending tests due to advanced device materials and systematic mechanical designs. Moreover, skin-like oxide logic inverter circuits composed of n-channel metal oxide semiconductor TFTs on ultrathin, transparent polyethylene terephthalate film have been realized.
SOURCES – Eurekalert, Advanced Materials