One step closer to bendable tech and folding the tablet into your pocket

The LG G Flex phone. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

South Korean scientists have made fully bendable smartphone closer to reality by creating a prototype of a thin film which keeps its useful electric and magnetic properties even when highly curved.

They say this could one day enable new wearable devices such as health monitoring equipment or virtual reality attire.

An electron microscope image shows tiny nanoparticles of bismuth ferrite embedded in a polymer film. The film enhances the unique electric and magnetic properties of bismuth ferrite and preserves these properties even when bent. Image: YoungPak Lee/ Hanyang University.

The researchers describe the film in a paper published in the journal Applied Physics Letters.

Flexible electronics have been hard to manufacture because many materials with useful electronic properties tend to be rigid.

A team of physicists and engineers from South Korea used bismuth ferrite (BiFeO3) — one of the most promising materials whose electronic properties can be controlled by a magnetic field.

The researchers synthesized nanoparticles of bismuth ferrite and mixed them into a polymer solution. The solution was dried in a series of steps at increasing temperatures to produce a thin, flexible film.

When the researchers tested the electric and magnetic properties of the film they found their new material did much more than preserve the useful properties of bulk bismuth ferrite — it made them better.

The improved properties remained even as the film was curved into a cylindrical shape.

YoungPak Lee, a professor at Hanyang University in Seoul, says flexible multiferrorics could enable new wearable devices.

The researchers are working to further improve their multiferroic properties.

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