Microsoft envisions the next-generation LCD

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

Seattle (WA) – Scientists from Microsoft Research and the University of Washington claim to have developed a new display technology that could be four times as efficient in terms of backlight transmission as today’s LCDs and display perfect black color. At the same time the display technology could be manufactured economically, the researchers claim. Their idea: Telescopic pixels that are equipped with a pair of mirrors.

You can purchase pretty impressive displays for entertainment and computing purposes today. Depending on your budget, you can get fancy new technologies that provide slimmer form factors, high contrast ratios and brightness levels as well as fast response times.

Microsoft researchers believe that there is still room for improvement and they feel that their telescopic pixel innovation may lead the way to displays with much higher contrast ratios and brighter colors. According to the scientists, liquid crystals in LCDs cannot completely block light in the off state and are in many cases unusable in bright light. “LCDs transmit only 5–10% of the backlight, because of the polarizer, which blocks more than 50% of the light. Also, each color filter transmits only 30% of the remainder of the light, and there are some additional layers that decrease transmission even further,” a paper published in Nature states. Telescopic pixels could solve this problem.

These pixels are equipped with a pair of opposing mirrors, which completely can contain light within a pixel and produce a perfect black color. Using an electrical charge, the shape of one mirror can change its shape from planar to approximately parabolic, diverting the light beam to another mirror that will send the beam through the pixel and make the pixel visible on the outside. The researchers claim that this technology can transmit 36% of the backlight, up from about 9% in the most efficient technologies available today. The electrical charge could be applied very quickly, achieve display response times of 1.5 ms, the researchers said.

Considering the fact that there are already about 2 million pixels in today’s HD displays and future displays may go more than 8 million (quad HD) or even 12 million (4K) pixels, installing mirrors in every pixels sounds complicated and expensive.  However, the scientists said that such a display could not only support a “high” image resolution, but can be made “from relatively cheap materials, and is compatible with liquid crystal display production processes.”

There was no information when the technology could be put into production.