Flexible Electronics: The Next Wave of Innovation


Flexible electronics is an emerging field that promises to revolutionize how we interact with technology. By incorporating flexible, lightweight and durable components, flexible electronics allow for entirely new form factors and user experiences. In this article, we will explore the key technologies enabling flexible electronics, the major application areas it is addressing and the companies leading the charge in its development.

What is Flexible Electronics?

Flexible electronics refer to electronic devices that are thin, lightweight, durable and bendable. At the core of flexible electronics are flexible components like displays, batteries, sensors and conductors that can conform to curved surfaces or even be rolled up.

This is made possible through the use of new materials like plastic instead of silicon for semiconductors, as well as innovative fabrication techniques. The substitution of rigid materials with flexible ones opens up huge possibilities for more adaptable and wearable devices.

Key Enabling Technologies

There are several critical technologies that have enabled the development of functional flexible electronics:

Flexible Displays: Flexible organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays are now commercially available in phones and can bend, fold and twist without damage. Companies like Samsung, LG and BOE are making major advancements in flexible AMOLED technology.

Printed Electronics: Techniques like inkjet and screen printing allow the deposition of thin-film transistors, sensors and conductive inks on flexible plastic substrates. This low-cost approach is enabling new form factors.

Stretchable Circuits: the development of elastic conductors and semiconductors that maintain functionality even when stretched or bent is another breakthrough. Examples include circuits made of liquid metals and electronics integrated within elastic polymers.

Flexible Batteries: Batteries have been a challenge due to rigidity of traditional battery materials like silicon. Promising new prototypes utilize lithium-ion polymer electrolytes and electrodes structured to bend, extending device lifespan.

These core technologies are now enabling innovative applications of flexible electronics across different industries.

Application Areas

Wearable Technology
As one of the pioneering applications, flexible electronics are ideal for incorporating into wearable devices that conform to the body like smartwatches, fitness trackers, health monitors and augmented reality glasses. Brands like Garmin, Fitbit and Mojo are releasing innovative wearables exploiting the form factor advantages.

Flexible Displays and Smart Phones
Major phone manufacturers are developing foldable and rollable display prototypes as the next phase in mobile technology. Expected to launch commercially within a couple of years, these devices will drastically increase screen size without compromising on portability.

Internet of Things (IoT) Devices
The low-cost, lightweight and durable attributes make flexible electronics suited for embedding flexible sensors into everyday objects to enable IoT applications ranging from smart packaging to infrastructure monitoring. Promising applications include e-skins, smart labels and virtual reality accessories.

Medical Devices and Healthcare
Flexible, stretchable electronics have huge potential for less invasive health monitors, implantable devices, wearable medical patches and responsive prosthetics. Companies like MC10 and Xenoma are developing innovative healthcare solutions targeting conditions like cardiac disorders, diabetes and arthritis.

Automotive and Transportation
Capabilities like conformable display dashboards, curved info-panels and 3D shaped sensors could enhance the driver and passenger experience in future vehicles. Research is also ongoing into developing self-charging car bodies using integrated solar panels.

Key Companies Leading Development

Several major companies spanning different industries are spearheading research and development of flexible electronics into commercially viable products:

– Samsung, LG, BOE (Displays)
– Imprint Energy, Jenax, Enfucell (Batteries)
– Cambrios, E Ink, Blue Spark (Conductors)
– MC10, Xenoma, Gentag (Medical)
– Apple, Microsoft, Amazon (Major adopters)
– Kaneka, DowDuPont, 3M (Materials suppliers)

Governments and research institutes like Fraunhofer in Europe and MIT in the US are also involved through funding flexible electronics projects. China has emerged as a dominant location for manufacturing scale-up with cities like Shenzhen and production facilities.

Challenges and Future Outlook

While huge progress has been made, some challenges remain around device lifetime, moisture resistance, power consumption and commercial manufacturing costs that need to be addressed for widespread adoption. Further advances are also expected in areas like self-healing circuits, epidermal sensors and new emerging concepts like electronic skin.

With flexible components and designs becoming more refined, within the next 5 years most consumer devices are anticipated to take on more variable and adaptive form factors. Flexible electronics also have potential to disrupt new industries by enabling entirely new functionality. With worldwide industry revenues projected to grow exponentially, flexible electronics seem poised to revolutionize how we interact with technology in the future.



  1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
  2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it