A View from Christopher Mims
Smart Phone Displays Will Continue to Become More Drool-Worthy
Light emitting transistors mean flat-panel displays have a road map for years to come, unlike microchips.
iPhone 4 OLED display
(cc) Yutaka Tsutano
A breakthrough in display technology could lead to affordable television sets that look as good as the Retina display on an iPhone 4. The key is an advanced form of light-emitting transistor enabled by carbon nanotubes, announced today by researchers at the University of Florida.
By combining all the parts usually present in the display elements of high-end cell phones with a transistor itself, they’ve created technology that could bring down the cost of these high end screens to the point that they become economical even for large displays.
Most displays use LCDs, which are like little filters that let through a given color of light in order to display a single pixel of an image. In contrast, high-end cell phones use OLEDs, which generate light directly, and so don’t require a back-light. They’re also sharper than an LED, draw less power and yield a wider viewing angle.
Comparing displays to microchips, it seems as if displays are much less of a “mature” technology. That’s good for display manufacturers: with all that room for improvement, they can keep churning out shiny new baubles. Chip manufacturers, by contrast, are currently pushing the limits of the how small they can make transistor elements; combined with the heat issues currently plaguing chips, engineers have been forced to try other techniques – namely more cores and increased parallelism – to achieve higher processing speeds.