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Motorola revealed its first working nano-emissive display (NED) prototype on Monday at the Society for Information Display (SID) conference in Boston. The company hopes its five-inch diagonal proto-television will attract licensees not yet convinced that Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) and plasma screens are the future of high-definition entertainment.

The wafer-thin display – it’s just one-eighth of an inch thick – is actually just one section of a theoretical 42-inch television, which could be mounted on a wall and play DVD movies that look just as bright and clear as they would on LCDs. If companies such as Panasonic and Sony choose NED, they could start manufacturing high-definition sets as early as 2007 – and at the highly competitive price of under $1000.

Motorola has outpaced other carbon nanotube technology innovators, such as Futaba and Samsung, with the first working prototype at a U.S. trade show. (Futaba, a Japanese company, has shown NED prototypes in Japan.) At the conference in Boston, more companies are getting their first look at this promising competitor to LCD and plasma screens that Motorola first announced in June 2003.

It’s an opportune time for Motorola’s announcement, too, since manufacturers are beginning to explore cheaper alternatives to LCD and plasma screens. As more high-definition DVD formats, television broadcasts, and next-generation video games attract consumers, manufacturers are looking for ways to reduce the production costs of HD screens and make them more affordable for consumers.

Today, the cheapest HD sets cost more than $1000. According to market research firm DisplaySearch, though, an 40-inch NED display could retail for $800 or less.

“It’s a much simpler manufacturer process than [cathode ray tube] or LCD,” says DisplaySearch vice president Barry Young. “The equipment costs are lower and the material costs are less. LCD requires a very complex manufacturing process, and CRT displays are even more costly to produce.”

Even with the high price, though, HDTV sales have increased 43 percent since last year, according to Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), so the market is ripe. And any price drop would likely spur HDTV sales to even greater heights.

Instead of using either one cathode ray tube (CRT) or millions of tiny LED lights to project a video image, NED uses millions of accelerated electrons charged by just 5 to 10 volts of electricity, compared with 5,000 volts for large-screen, high-def LCDs. The electrons shoot toward a phosphor plate, creating the moving image. This technique requires less voltage than a CRT, so the displays won’t consume as much power. And, unlike LCD, a nano-emissive display, which uses carbon nanotube technology, will be easily viewable from all angles.

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