UK prof pioneers new LCD screen system

Promises significantly cheaper flat displays

A Cambridge UK academic has come up with a completely new flat TV concept that relies on total internal reflection in a wedge shaped piece of clear plastic, fed by the same LCD video projectors that drive rear-projection televisions. The technique promises to cost about a fiftieth of the price of current plasma screens and yet deliver a similar quality picture.

The system works by introducing light at the bottom edge of the wedge, which bounces across and back again up the length of the wedge until it reaches the critical angle at which it escapes and leaves the face of the screen as light. A precise mathematical formula ensures that light for the correct pixel exits the screen at just the right distance up the wedge.

Dr Adrian Travis of Flat Projection Displays, a spin-off from Cambridge University's Department of Engineering, is negotiating for the concept to emerge onto the market in early 2007 and has it working perfectly on a 15-inch screen and shortly expects to have it ready to go on a 50-inch display.

"We have a 15-inch demo and a 50-inch demo, and have achieved 600 candelas per square meter generating 1 millimetre sized pixels. This is about the same as top-end plasma screens that appear in televisions costing $10,000 today," said Travis. "We have to play around with the image to make sure that the pixels don't bunch up, and that's part of our intellectual property which we have patented. If you don't do that the image can appear a little like an image reflected off water," he added.

Travis and his team of optical engineers have been working on the system for the past three or so years and have now done a deal with a local technical consultancy and in turn with a household name TV maker (which they cannot yet reveal) and will take the device to be manufactured in the Far East

"The manufacturing costs are so low because this falls within the scope of existing injection-moulding techniques. We are told that it will take about $500,000 to make a mould and that a dedicated machine to make these would cost around $6m. This compares with the $2.8bn that Samsung needs to spend every time it builds a new plant for Transflective LCD screens," explained Travis.

Making big TFT screens is inordinately complex, with glass being chemically cleaned, and various layers of chemicals laid evenly on it followed by 6 or 7 masks used to etch an amorphous silicon layer, more layers of chemicals and then a second glass screen being glued to the first. Reductions in this complexity are made inch by inch every year, and most of the patents for improving this process are held by a handful of mostly Japanese and Korean consumer electronics companies.

All the promising approaches to building cheap flat screens have rested on some form of rear projection system such as market leader Texas Instruments Digital Light Processing or Philips Liquid Crystal on Silicon technology, or the Sony-owned Grating Light Valve. Basically the approach is to manipulate a miniature mirror using semiconductor technology to make it either reflect a red, green or blue beam of light to the screen or away from the screen.

The Texas chips use up to 1.3m hinge-mounted microscopic mirrors. The chip manufacturing processes are more or less available to Moores Law, which is that they can be made smaller at a rate of double the density every 18 months or cheaper at the same rate.

Sony is also working on something called the Field Emission Display which is based on a similar concept to the cathode ray tube, with a ray exciting a phosphor coating, but using matrix addressing to trigger millions of electron emitting cathodes, which sit just a few millimetres behind the screen's surface.

None of these technologies promise anything beyond total internal reflection and with LCD projectors falling in prices at a rate of 3 per cent to 4 per cent a month, according to Travis, the total price of his system is likely to fall in line with rear projection screens and start much cheaper.

Flat Projection Displays will eventually also target cheap laptop displays using the clear wedge approach, but this will only be practical once a matchbox or smaller sized projector becomes available, which Travis says is certainly on the way.

Copyright © 2004, Faultline

Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.

Related stories

Toshiba TV cries for help
Sharp launches '3D' LCD screen
Estonian plasma TVs: Phishers fingered

Other stories you might like

  • Moscow court fines Pinterest, Airbnb, Twitch, UPS for not storing data locally
    Data sovereignty is more important than Ukrainian sovereignty

    A Moscow court has fined Airbnb, Twitch, UPS, and Pinterest for not storing Russian user data locally, according to Russian regulator Roskomnadzor.

    The decision was handed down by the Tagansky District Court of Moscow after the four foreign companies allegedly did not provide documents confirming that the storage and processing of Russian personal data was conducted entirely in the country.

    Twitch, Pinterest and Airbnb were fined approximately $38,500 while UPS received a fine of roughly $19,200.

    Continue reading
  • Israel plans ‘Cyber-Dome’ to defeat digital attacks from Iran and others
    Already has 'Iron Dome' – does it need another hero?

    The new head of Israel's National Cyber Directorate (INCD) has announced the nation intends to build a "Cyber-Dome" – a national defense system to fend off digital attacks.

    Gaby Portnoy, director general of INCD, revealed plans for Cyber-Dome on Tuesday, delivering his first public speech since his appointment to the role in February. Portnoy is a 31-year veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces, which he exited as a brigadier general after also serving as head of operations for the Intelligence Corps, and leading visual intelligence team Unit 9900.

    "The Cyber-Dome will elevate national cyber security by implementing new mechanisms in the national cyber perimeter, reducing the harm from cyber attacks at scale," Portnoy told a conference in Tel Aviv. "The Cyber-Dome will also provide tools and services to elevate the protection of the national assets as a whole. The Dome is a new big data, AI, overall approach to proactive defense. It will synchronize nation-level real-time detection, analysis, and mitigation of threats."

    Continue reading
  • Intel to sell Massachusetts R&D site, once home to its only New England fab
    End of another era as former DEC facility faces demolition

    As Intel gets ready to build fabs in Arizona and Ohio, the x86 giant is planning to offload a 149-acre historic research and development site in Massachusetts that was once home to the company's only chip manufacturing plant in New England.

    An Intel spokesperson confirmed on Wednesday to The Register it plans to sell the property. The company expects to transfer the site to a new owner, a real-estate developer, next summer, whereupon it'll be torn down completely.

    The site is located at 75 Reed Rd in Hudson, Massachusetts, between Boston and Worcester. It has been home to more than 800 R&D employees, according to Intel. The spokesperson told us the US giant will move its Hudson employees to a facility it's leasing in Harvard, Massachusetts, about 13 miles away.

    Continue reading
  • Start using Modern Auth now for Exchange Online
    Before Microsoft shutters basic logins in a few months

    The US government is pushing federal agencies and private corporations to adopt the Modern Authentication method in Exchange Online before Microsoft starts shutting down Basic Authentication from the first day of October.

    In an advisory [PDF] this week, Uncle Sam's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) noted that while federal executive civilian branch (FCEB) agencies – which includes such organizations as the Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, and such departments as Homeland Security, Justice, Treasury, and State – are required to make the change, all organizations should make the switch from Basic Authentication.

    "Federal agencies should determine their use of Basic Auth and migrate users and applications to Modern Auth," CISA wrote. "After completing the migration to Modern Auth, agencies should block Basic Auth."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022