Toshiba to Debut Next Generation LCD

Folks who attend Society for Information Display (SID) 2001 at San Jose, California will glimpse a taste of the future. Toshiba is set to reveal its full-color polymer organic light emitting display (OLED) technology, which functions much like an LCD with improved power consumption, response time, and wider viewing angles. These advantages appeal to OEMS such as Apple who recently announced a switch to LCD displays for the majority of its systems. OLED will offer a more suitable platform for viewing media than existing LCDs, and leaves the door open for thinner screens.

Unlike LCDs which are backlit, OLED displays will present output, "via an organic light-emitting diode in the pixels formed on a TFT array." Toshiba touts a prototype that features a 2.85-inch display supporting 260,000 colors and a 64-level (6-bit) gray scale. "The breakthrough display was achieved by development of technology for forming a light-emitting polymer film on a low temperature polysilicon thin film transistor (TFT) array," according to the company. Polysilicon was pioneered by Toshiba, and is a key element of OLED technology achieving active-matrix display.

Until recently, the manufacturing of OLED displays has not been feasible for mass production. According to Toshiba, "All OLEDs commercialized to date are mono-color or area-color, and use small molecules in the light-emitting organic film rather than polymers." These limitations compounded by an intricate fabrication process have kept OLED displays far from the consumer marketplace. Thanks to its own research and development, Toshiba intends to release products based on this technology by April of 2002. OLED displays will first surface in compact electronic devices such as cell phones and PDAs, eventually graduating to high end portable PCs.

Previously, manufacturing required vacuum-evaporation technology, which Toshiba claims, "is unsuitable for the fabrication of large-sized, high-resolution displays on a large mother glass substrate, as required in the TFT production process." With new ink-jet printing and solvent-material technologies for depositing a polymer film, Toshiba boasts it has removed all boundaries toward efficient production and has eliminated the need for a vacuum as well.

While it may be a few years until this technology becomes readily available, OLED has an opportunity to shape the marketplace. With the advent of Tablet PCs and larger portable screens, thin high-resolution displays will become a necessity for future computing.

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