Laser Television

Purer than plasma, with more colors

Watch out, plasma TV lovers. Later this year, ­Mitsubishi and ­Samsung could be selling TVs that use lasers to provide more, and more accurate, colors than other display technologies do. That even goes for plasma displays, which use electrically charged gases to cause materials called phosphors to glow.

A three-centimeter-wide emitter of red, green, and blue laser light is shown above.

Lasers have always been theoretically better, but until recently, lasers small enough to fit in displays or projectors were too weak to be practical. But Novalux, a company in Sunnyvale, CA, found that adding a crystal of lithium niobate to a gallium indium arsenide laser would boost its light output and change its wavelength from infrared to the red, green, or blue that are the building blocks of color displays. The lasers shine on arrays of thousands of micromirrors that flip back and forth thousands of times a second to combine the light into new colors of different intensities, says inventor Aram Mooradian, founder of Novalux and former head of the quantum electronics group at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory.

The first commercial products to use the Novalux technology will be televisions that have 72 lasers each. But mobile gadgets that use as few as three lasers–say, cell phones that pro­ject photos on a barroom wall–could be next. Mooradian has his sights on Hollywood: ultimately he hopes to make movie projectors that use hundreds of lasers.

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From the latest smartphones to advances in quantum computing, the hardware behind today's digital age is rapidly changing.

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