Mobile World Congress points the way forward in display technology

Publish Date

05 MAR 2022


Kai Beckmann


Mobile devices with flexible displays: Multiple manufacturers of mobile communication devices have already announced them, and others have followed at the Mobile World Congress (MCW) in Barcelona last week.

In the future, the use of this display technology will not just be limited to foldable cell phones; however, a number of technical challenges still need to be overcome.

New application fields for flexible OLED displays

Apart from the 5G mobile communications standard and an outlook for 6G, one topic in particular is likely to dominate among cell phone manufacturers: new foldable devices with flexible displays. However, this display technology will not just be reserved for cell phones in the future. The first rollable TV prototypes already exist and foldable displays are also being considered for notebooks. The benefits are obvious: greater mobility, lighter weight and more flexibility, especially as regards the design. This gives the user a compact device with a larger display.

Pioneering work by EMD Electronics

A few technical obstacles have to be overcome before flexible displays can really be used widely. As a leading supplier of OLED materials for display manufacturing, we are conducting intensive research in the following fields, among others:

Surface coating

Current flexible display models are not sufficiently scratch-resistant. New coatings are needed that are not only very thin and flexible but also robust enough to withstand the common wear and tear in everyday mobile life. In our view, this will be essential for the success of foldable displays. While the industry is researching various plastic films and also ultra-thin glass, we are working on the required coatings that will impart the scratch and break resistance properties needed to the plastic or glass.

Folding edge

To date, cell phone manufacturers have had to develop elaborate bending mechanisms in order to optimally protect the display along the fold. The particular challenge in the future will be to increasingly lower the bending radius and ideally create a fold with zero radius of curvature. The formulation lab has come up with an innovative solution. In addition to the new materials we’re developing in the chemical synthesis lab, we’re replacing individual components of our formulation solution so as to optimize the material composition properties – in significantly shorter development cycles.

Layer thickness

Foldable displays are subjected to high mechanical stress. The thicker the entire system, the higher the stress during folding. All manufacturers are therefore particularly keen to reduce the thickness of the entire OLED display. There are two approaches to this. The individual layers of the display are made thinner and/or the number of layers is reduced. Our goal is to integrate the functions of previously two material layers into one. This is quite feasible for some layers but a real challenge for others, such as the encapsulation layer, which is crucial for the service life of the OLED display and requires extreme caution during processing.

Welcome to the metaverse!

But to really bring the metaverse to life, a lot of development work still needs to be done. Future headsets must have enormous computing power, which can only be achieved through powerful, low-power computer architectures, such as neuromorphic computers. Furthermore, the weight, design, energy efficiency, and the display technology of the headsets must be improved considerably. And these are precisely the areas we are working on within the Electronics business sector. With our expertise as an innovative developer of materials for the manufacture of semiconductors and displays, we can provide our customers with the right materials they need to improve metaverse headsets. Forecasts predict that the market for AR headsets will grow rapidly, from 2 million units sold today to around 87 million in 2028.

The MWC will show where the journey is headed, and I am proud that EMD Electronics is helping to shape the future.

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