Competition for LCD: Better Image, A Lot Less Power

Improving on LCD Screens
Apparently, LCD screens don't have much going for them except that compared to CRTs they are more power-efficient, and compared to other flat screen technologies they are less expensive. Their downsides are that the pixels do not turn completely off and take on average 25 to 40 milliseconds to switch between black and white (which can cause motion blur), they don't perform very well in bright ambient lights, they are complex (with three sub-pixels per pixel, each with its controlling transistor), and most importantly for us, only 5-10% of the light emitted by the LCD's backlight passes through the polarizing films, liquid-crystal layer, and the color filters to reach your eye.

Millions of Miniature Telescopes Staring You in the Face
Microsoft Research has published a paper in Nature Photonics about a new kind of monitor that could someday replace LCDs. Their 'telescopic' pixels (pictured under magnification on the left) use two micromirrors allowing them to switch completely on or off in 1.5 millisecond. Because they are so fast, you don't need 3 sub-pixels, reducing cost and complexity. But the best part is that about 36% of the light emitted by the backlight is getting through, making them potentially about 3.6 and 7 times more power-efficient than LCDs. But that's not all: Computer simulation show this could reach 56% with further design improvements. That would be up to 11.2 times better than LCDs!How 'Telescopic Pixels' Work

Via Technology Review:

The new pixels use two tiny micromirrors to pass or block light. The first is a 100-micrometer-wide, 100-nanometer-thick aluminum disc with a hole in the center. The other mirror, also a thin aluminum film, is as big as the hole and placed directly in front of it. Light is projected on the disc-shaped mirror from behind the second mirror.

In the "off" state, both mirrors reflect light back to the source, so nothing comes out of the hole. In the "on" state, a voltage applied between the disc and a transparent electrode bends the disc toward the electrode. Now, light bounces off the disc toward the second mirror and then out through the hole.


All this aluminum is probably easier to recycle than the materials used in current LCD screens. LED backlighting could also make them greener, but we don't have details yet about what other materials are used.

Of course, this is still in the lab and other new screen technologies might beat it to market, but it is promising, especially considering how many computers and electronic devices have them. A big improvement in power-efficiency would make a difference, and if the image is better too, it shouldn't be hard to displace the old technology.

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Tags: Computing | Electronics

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