updated 04:00 pm EDT, Thu August 20, 2009
Future devices could have conventional LED displays and lights that can flex and otherwise shape around other objects, scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign said today. A discovery published in Science would build LEDs on a film that is chemically dissolved while the lights are held in place. These in turn can be stamped on common surfaces, including hard ones like glass but also rubber and other materials that can bend.
Researcher John Rogers notes that many small LEDs can be joined together to form one coherent display and that they can also be spaced far enough apart to be see-through, such as on a bus window.
Development has been funded by Ford and may initially be used for wrap-around brake lights, but sufficiently detailed LEDs could be used for small electronics. It's not known when exactly they would reach production. Flexible OLEDs are likely to reach the market sooner as they have been easier to develop, being made of organic and more malleable carbon; however, they typically aren't as bright as inorganic LEDs and are more likely to break.