Nanotechnology to improve quality, performance of thin displays

Chicago (IL) - Current flat panel displays will soon see receive new feature sets that make the compromises between common CRT displays and LCDs easier to swallow for manufacturers and end-users, analysts said. Plastic and flexible displays as well as carbon nanotube-based devices will make their commercial debuts this year and become mainstream within five years, NanoMarkets said.

According to the research firm, nanotechnology could replace a current set of compromises consumers have to make when purchasing devices with screens. New approaches are likely to offer much improved visual quality over today's LCDs while offering extremely thin screens.

Nanomarkets expects plastic and flexible displays as well as carbon nanotube-based devices to have a substantial impact on the industry. Plastic displays are based on organic molecules, either small molecules or polymers that are conductive in nature. With doping they can become semiconducting to create thin-film transistors and flexible displays when embedded in a flexible substrate. Such displays are already available today, especially in automotive applications. For the future, the industry believes plastics will enable roll-up displays to realize a vision of electronic paper.

Carbon nanotube technology (CNT) in contrast is able to accelerate electrons to create a large television display based on field emission technology that is lightweight, low power consuming and with excellent viewing characteristics, NanoMarkets said. The CNT-based field emission display (FED) would avoid most of the disadvantages associated with today's CRT, plasma and LCD displays. The first such displays are expected to debut later this year in the largest flat panel devices on the market with high price tags.

The new breed of thin displays is currently available in very limited numbers for example in LEDs, book reader devices in Japan, and in-car dashboard applications. The time frame between 2006 and 2008 will bring flexible displays in notebooks, CNTs for TVs, cellphones and PDAs, and advertising screens. Nanomarkets expects the devices to become mainstream for virtually all screens 2010.