Bendy batteries: The next step in the flexible smartphone revolution

Samsung bendy screenWhen Samsung announced it was developing a flexible screen, critics questioned what the point would be if other smartphone components remained rigid.

Well, it seems the answer is starting to emerge. Researchers in South Korea have announced the development of a flexible battery which could be another step forwards in the bid to produce flexible smartphones.

A team from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology say they have come up with what they describe as a “fluid-like” polymer electrolyte which is more flexible than a traditional battery.

The news has come from the Korean science ministry, which told the Korean Joongang Daily: “Conventional lithium-ion batteries that use liquefied electrolytes had safety problems as the film that separates the electrolytes may melt under heat, in which case the positive and negative elements may come in contact, causing an explosion.

“Because the new battery uses flexible but solid materials, and not liquids, it can be expected to show a much higher level of stability than conventional rechargeable batteries.”

The new batteries are created by spreading polymer electrolytes on electrodes and then blasting them with ultra-violet rays for 30 seconds.

Well, that’s good to know as the possibility of your mobile phone exploding doesn’t seem like a great one to say the least.

In reality, while many analysts expected Samsung to release a bendy device this year, a fully flexible smartphone is still some way off.

But, as announcements about new developments keep coming, it certainly doesn’t sound as futuristic as it once did. The new research, led by professor Lee Sang-young, means we’re on the path towards flexible phones and mobile devices.

Such developments could dramatically change the design of phones and how we use them. The possibilities could truly be revolutionary, with devices we could possibly be able to fold up into our pockets.

The announcement about the new battery comes hot on the heels of Samsung showcasing its own tech of the future. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the company showed off a radical bending mobile phone which could be pretty much unbreakable.

Brian Berkeley, head of Samsung Electronics Co.’s display lab in San Jose, showcased a prototype. In an application which could be first, he demonstrated a phone with a rigid display which bent around the edges of the devices, so you can see incoming messages even if you have a cover over the main screen.

Future applications were also shown, with a phone-sized gizmo opening up to reveal a tablet-sized screen inside.

But, at the moment, Samsung’s devices are simply able to bend, not to fold, so that concept is some way off.

The OLED chemicals used to make the bendy screens are incredibly sensitive to oxygen so need to be totally sealed off from the air. Volume production of flexible displays is, therefore, proving problematic. But, clearly developments are being made all the time.

Stephen Bell, an analyst with Keystone Global, said: “The concept of the flexible screen has been around for some time, but it finally looks as if Samsung is really going to deliver on that technology.”