Display concept sets size/price benchmark

Mark Fletcher takes a look at a technology behind the ‘next generation’ of displays
and sees how it could set a new benchmark with regard to size, price and performance

Display concept sets size/price benchmark
.
Mark Fletcher takes a look at a technology behind the ‘next generation’ of displays and sees how it could set a new benchmark with regard to size, price and performance
.
Large television screens, which take up more room than your favourite armchair, could soon be a thing of the past if a new display technology gains a foothold.
UK company Printable Field Emitters (PFE), which has numerous patents on its approach to field emission displays (FEDs), has stolen the lead by reducing significantly the complexity and cost of the current fabrication techniques.
The approach, one of many being developed worldwide, should allow displays to drop in both depth (thickness) and price without any degradation in picture quality and viewing pleasure.
Primary applications will be in consumer televisions and monitors but the technology is likely to filter down to other applications such as portable devices and automation equipment. The concept behind the displays could also see use in back lighting for LCDs, portable X-ray tubes and even high-density data storage.
Of particular importance to the development is the investigations into capping the price of any future models through the use of low-cost, proprietary manufacturing techniques – especially the screen printing technology.
Existing FEDs rely heavily on gated microtips which require very accurate manufacturing processes to produce atomically sharp microtips. PFE’s approach allows it to fire electrons from the bottom of larger round holes with the electrons themselves being emitted from inexpensive conducting particles embedded in an insulating material.
Called broad area emitters these structures are up to 10 times larger than the atomic-sized points, making them easier, faster and cheaper to manufacture. This approach will also allow the displays to be manufactured in existing plasma display manufacturing plants.
The electrons then excite an array of phosphors in a similar way to that used by CRTs – but without the long journey beforehand.
With the market for 20 to 40in screens expected to be worth £30.4bn in the next two years there is an impetus for this technology to reach a commercially viable stage as quickly as possible. The research and development behind the concept has been the recipient of no fewer than four Smart Awards from the DTI (totalling £600,000) and, last July, it received one of only four National Smart Foresight awards given to companies developing exceptional products which are not yet in production.
PFE has also been granted £1million from the EU’s research fund. As the company stresses: “In an industry dominated by multinational (primarily Asian) companies, it is nice to see a UK company setting the standard.”

The technology behind the production of electrons is far simpler than existing approaches

The concept takes advantage of the economies offered by screen printing

Prices of displays should compete favourably with other large-screen technologies

Author
Tom Shelley

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