Foldable phones, explained

The image above shows an electronic circuit being increasingly stretched. Credit: Douglas Levere, University at Buffalo.

The image above shows a stretchable organic semiconductor. Credit: Douglas Levere, University at Buffalo.

Organic semiconductors are key to stretchable electronics, like Samsung’s foldable phone, UB expert says

Release Date: July 18, 2018

Head shot of Shenqiang Ren, a UB engineer

Shenqiang Ren

“The key to developing foldable phones and other stretchable electronics has been the progression of organic semiconductors. These are specially arranged materials, often consisting of carbon or hydrogen, which are strong yet exceptionally pliable.”
Shenqiang Ren, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. — With reports that Samsung Electronics Co. is readying to launch a foldable-screen smartphone, University at Buffalo expert Shenqiang Ren says the key technology behind such a product is the advancement of organic semiconductors.

“Smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices don’t bend because they are made of inorganic crystalline semiconductors and other materials that are rigid. As a result, they break under stress,” says Ren, PhD, professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

“The key to developing foldable phones and other stretchable electronics has been the progression of organic semiconductors. These are specially arranged materials, often consisting of carbon or hydrogen, which are strong yet exceptionally pliable. The organic light-emitting-diode screen often mentioned with the Samsung effort is an example of this,” says Ren, also a member of UB’s RENEW Institute.

“Recently, researchers have made tremendous advancements in organic semiconductors. These include materials that assemble themselves, stretch to greater lengths and are more adaptable to electronics,” Ren says.

For example, Ren published studies showing how an organic semiconducting polymer can be stretched up to 2,000 percent of its original shape, and be used to transduce and store energy. The effort was inspired by kirigami, a variation of origami that involves folding and cutting pieces of paper.

Ren’s work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Army Research Office, the U.S. Department of Energy and other sources.

Media Contact Information

Cory Nealon
Director of News Content
Engineering, Computer Science
Tel: 716-645-4614
cmnealon@buffalo.edu
Twitter: @UBengineering