Powering the flexible world

November 05, 2018 // By Dr Xiaoxi He
From 2019 we will come to a world with flexible electronics and batteries to power these devices have attracted tremendous attentions. These devices may require batteries with special mechanical properties or form factors.

In 2018, the OLED industry will be worth $25.5Bn, rising to $30.3Bn in 2019. Over $15Bn has been invested in the OLED display industry from 2016 to 2018 with panel makers mainly based in China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan. The investment is coming from the need to differentiate products with better screens and new form factors, with plastic based OLEDs becoming the norm (in rigid format) leading to truly flexible OLED displays - foldable displays being the first commercial example of that.


1) Flexible displays from (left) Visionox and
(right) BOE. Source: IDTechEx

Flexible displays require innovations from all their components, from the front panel, to the backplane, to the encapsulation. These innovations expand their capabilities and enable a world with flexible electronics. 

Power solutions are another piece of puzzle in this flexible world
A significant portion of flexible electronics will be portable and battery is always one of the limiting factors in the development of portable devices. We all have the experience that our smart phone batteries cannot last for long enough and they have to be recharged daily or even more frequently. 
From lead acid, nickel-cadmium, to nickel-metal-hydride and lithium-ion batteries, the development of the electrochemical energy storage device is slow. Lithium-ion batteries, as the mostly successful commercial battery system nowadays, have been widely used in laptops, mobile phones, tablets and electric vehicles. However, the development of battery technology does not follow Moore's Law as transistors and the improvement is very slow, which is due to the intrinsic limitations. 

Now, we have proposed another requirement for the battery—we want to have flexible batteries to fit into flexible electronic devices. This makes the task even more challenging. However, the potential new form factors can enable more flexible arrangement of the batteries. For instance, if a battery can be curved or folded, a larger battery can be fitted into the device and a larger battery in general can last longer. 


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