Holst Centre has taken a big step towards commercial wearable electronics with the world's first durable, textile-integrated OLED systems. The demo systems feature a new interconnect technology that allows OLEDs and other electronic components to be embedded into fabrics without affecting their lifetime. The technology could be used to integrate light and intelligence into clothes and other textile products, enabling a host of new healthcare, safety, fashion, design and automotive applications.

Wearable electronics is an exciting new area of development that could revolutionize how people interact with technology and information. Everything from smartphones and displays to healthcare monitoring and phototherapy systems could be integrated into our clothes and accessories. So they go wherever we go, unobtrusively.

Holst Centre's new interconnect technology allows textile manufacturers to place electronic components wherever they like on a fabric. The result is an electronic system that can be bent, flexed and stretched exactly like the original fabric. In Holst Centre's demonstrators, these electronic components are OLEDs but they could equally include organic photovoltaics (OPVs), LEDs and other flexible or silicon-based ICs.

"Our technology turns fabrics into one large PCB. We believe this is the first OLED-in-textile system that can survive the rigors of the real world. Integrating the OLEDs does not affect their lifetime, and our in-house testing shows the system is stable for thousands of cycles of flexing over a small radius," said Margreet de Kok, Senior scientist at Holst Centre's Integration technologies research program.

The electronics can be integrated into the carrier material during production, using standard textile mill production equipment. Alternatively, the electronic layer can be produced separately and simply ironed onto the fabric or finished clothing. In either case, the materials can be produced and electronics integrated in high-volume roll-to-roll processes.

The technology is ready for commercialization and - with the appropriate choice of electronic components - could be on the market within a year. Holst Centre will be hosting a series of workshops for textile manufacturers to explore the technology and the opportunities it opens up. Interested companies should contact Holst Centre for more details.

Holst Centre's technology for textile integration was developed as part of the PLACE-it project, which is funded through the European Commission's Seventh Framework Programme.

See a video of Holst Centre's OLEDin-textile on the