Foldable electronics require robust conductive materials in touch displays, Heraeus says it has the answer

For a display to be foldable at all, each of its components must be extremely robust and flexible. With the fundamental shift from glass to plastic in displays, the main challenge is to employ mission-critical materials that are necessary for foldable displays.

“Our conductive material already possesses all the requisite electronic and mechanical properties,” claims Dr. Armin Sautter, Head of Technical Service Display at Heraeus Electronic Chemicals.

The Clevios HY E from Heraeus is a hybrid material comprising silver nanowires for higher conductivity and conductive PEDOT polymers as a flexible binding agent that allows for a smaller bending radius.

According to the company, in tests, films coated with Clevios HY E have been folded more than 300,000 times with a bending radius of 1 mm – with no impairment of their conductivity.

High and stable conductivity is essential especially for large displays. With such small bending radii, it will be possible to produce thin smartphones and tablets that have multiple folds.

“Even during implementation, we can provide support to display manufacturers as they implement individual adaptations of the material and develop processes for series production,” Dr. Sautter points out. In its test laboratory in Taiwan, Heraeus has a variety of options for testing conductive polymers on substrates. In addition, the developers can structure touchscreens themselves – inserting the touch-sensitive sensors into the display film in such a way that they are undetectable.

Working with a Taiwanese touch panel manufacturer, Heraeus believes it has demonstrated what the future of displays actually looks like, with its team producing an 8-inch folded touchscreen prototype in their test lab. “This prototype clearly demonstrates how sophisticated and robust our materials are,” says Dr. Armin. “Now we are looking for technological partnerships to implement additional applications.”

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Bethan Grylls