Here's to 50 Years of Display Technology – and 50 More

by Stephen Atwood

Happy New Year and welcome to the year 2013.  I write these January notes each year during our Christmas holiday in the U.S., and it’s always a time for reflection as well as renewed optimism.  By any measure, 2012 turned out to be a difficult year for many people either financially, politically, personally, or professionally.  While the Mayans appear to have been slightly misunderstood, and the solar system was not consumed by an apocalypse of some kind, there were plenty of more earthly challenges to deal with, ranging from the economy, to politics, to severe weather, to delays in the commercial availability of OLED TVs.  Through it all, we had a great gathering of the industry in Boston for Display Week and a SID 50th Anniversary celebration in Los Angeles.  All year long, Information Display was here for you, focusing on the latest display technologies and industry happenings, both in print and on-line.

This year is my eighth as the magazine’s Executive Editor, and I’m very proud to be part of this prestigious publication that continues to cover nearly every conceivable aspect of the display industry with stories you won’t find from any other source.  This year you will see some changes that I sincerely believe will make ID even better.  The first is our new website, which at press time was on schedule to be launched by the time you read this.  The site has been redesigned with a new look and feel and better navigation to provide easier access to information.  It also requires much less overhead for our editorial staff to maintain – which translates to more timely updates of industry news and up-to-date information about everything going on in the display industry.  We’ve also updated our on-line archives with a more powerful search engine and easier page viewing to make it convenient for you to find and review great articles from previous issues.

The other change for ID in 2013 is our new publishing calendar, which now follows a bi-monthly format.  We’ll be producing six issues in 2013, delivered in roughly two-month intervals, covering multiple technology topics and industry activities in each one.  We’ll average four Frontline Technology features in each issue along with our regular offerings of Applications, Display Marketplace, and Enabling Technology articles.  We’ll actually be producing more editorial content in 2013 than in 2012, while spacing out our printing schedule a little differently.

We begin 2013 with this issue on two diverse but highly interrelated topics: Display Materials and Display Metrology.  The field of materials (as we call it) covers a vast landscape of films, coatings, chemistries, raw materials, and fabrication processes, with each area offering innovations to improve display performance.  Once again, we welcome our Guest Editor Ion Bita from Qualcomm MEMS Technologies, who helped us create a great lineup of innovative achievements in this realm.  His guest editorial in this issue provides some valuable background on these articles as well as his own views on the work they present.

We begin with our first Frontline Technology article, featuring different types of new semiconductor materials including oxides like Indium-Gallium Zinc Oxide (IGZO), which began to see adoption in 2012 for LCD and OLED TFTs.  In their very detailed and extremely interesting article titled “Transparent Oxide Semiconductors for Advanced Display Applications,” authors Arokia Nathan, Sungsik Lee, Sanghun Jeon, Ihun Song, and U-In Chung discuss the properties and underlying science behind this new class of semiconductor materials.  Parts of this article have also appeared in the Journal of SID, but we thought it was such an important foundation topic we persuaded the authors to work with us to produce an ID-friendly version.  We are very grateful for their patience and support.  While editing this article, I was impressed not only by how versatile these new TFTs could be when used in traditional OLED and TFT applications, but by the many different ways that oxide TFTs might enable future inter-active displays.  This is an area that has already seen a great deal of infrastructure investment since it appeared just a few years ago and now shows even more promise.

Next, we hear from authors Jian Chen, Veeral Hardev, and Jeff Yurek, all with Nanosys, in an article titled “Quantum Dot Displays: Giving LCDs a Competitive Edge Through Color.”  Quantum-dot technology is not new by itself; in fact, we’ve covered it a couple times previously, but Nanosys has made new strides in packaging its proprietary chemistry into a practical lightguide film it calls “Quantum Dot Enhancement Film (QDEF).”  This QDEF film produces a secondary emission in conjunction with a blue LED backlight to produce a finely tuned palette of R-G-B light for optimizing the color performance of LCDs.  SID presented Nanosys with the Display Component of the Year award in 2012 for this new material, and now you can read about the details behind its development.

Paul Semenza is a contributing editor of ID magazine, and we always enjoy his objective and very insightful analysis of specific technology topics.  Therefore, we were pleased when Paul agreed to take a look at the topic of color filters for this month’s Display Marketplace feature.  This is a topic we have often touched on peripherally, such as in articles about multi-primary displays or different color-filter patterning schemes (i.e., PenTile), but not something we have covered from the top down in the way Paul has done it for us this month.  I was, for example, very surprised to learn about the degree of vertical integration of color-filter manufacturing among Asian panel makers and the degree of technological diversity in this field.  I’m sure you will enjoy it as well, and thanks to Paul for his effort on this topic.

Although the 3-D TV buzz has died down somewhat, there are still a lot of opportunities for performance improvements and some very dedicated metrologists are working on better ways to measure that performance.  One effort in this area that is addressed this month is a proposal of a new method for “Characterization of 3-D Gray-to-Gray Crosstalk with a Matrix of Lightness Differences,” by authors Hans Van Parys, Kees Teunissen, and Aleksandar Ševo.  In this very detailed piece we learn about the complexities of crosstalk performance when the analysis includes the intermediate gray-to-gray transitions between left- and right-eye images.  The authors use their new approach to illustrate how crosstalk performance can be highly dependent on the specific gray levels chosen for each eye and how this varies from the typical black-white measurements currently used in most cases.  To make their data-collection process easier to understand, they provide an interpretation method involving just-noticeable lightness differences in a simple color-coded matrix.  A basic computer program can be used to generate this data from a standard set of measurements, providing a much richer profile of a display’s true stereoscopic image performance.  While reading their article, I was reminded of earlier work on LCD pixel response times, when we all quickly realized that in order to fully understand motion-blur performance on a subject panel, we needed to characterize the response time between all intermediate gray levels, not just black to full white or vice versa.

In another article, we take a look behind the scenes of what is incontestably the most important document in display metrology: the Information Display Measurements Standard (IDMS).  This monumental effort, released in June of 2012, redefined the standards for the optical metrology of displays.  ID recently interviewed IDMS committee chair Joe Miseli and IDMS Editor Ed Kelley, and they were pleased to share some of the details behind the creation of the document, as well as how the IDMS will evolve in the future.

At the beginning of this editorial, I mentioned SID’s 50th Anniversary meeting held in Los Angeles in late September.  SID Past-President and good friend Larry Weber was there, and he filed our SID News feature this month on the highlights of the celebration, which by all measures appeared to be a great success.  I was there in spirit, and you can be as well when you read his submission.  Also, mark your calendars for Display Week in 

Vancouver in 2013, which will include the 50th SID Symposium and Exhibition.  A lot has happened in the past 50 years and a lot more will be happening in the next 50.

Intel’s co-founder Gordon Moore coined a phrase known as “Moore’s Law” based on his predictions that the number of transistors on integrated circuits would double approximately every 2 years.  Others have helped that expression evolve into various exponential predictions of technological growth doubling in various periods of time.  There is no doubt that many aspects of display technology have followed this type of function, at least for a significant number of years.  Consider, for example, the growth of resolution and content in both physical devices as well as content streams.  While changing very slowly before the 1960s, it started to expand in the ’70s and ’80s and then “went vertical” as they say in the ’90s and ’00s as we watched LCDs, computers, and digital broadcasting all become pixel rich.  The trend is continuing at an exponential pace through the ’10s, as we talked about extensively in the last issue of ID (November/December 2012).  Pretty soon we might be buying giga-pixel cameras and watching movies on our UHDTV stereoscopic tablet computers where even a magnifying glass would not reveal the matrix.  In whatever field of display technology you work, I’m sure you can express a similar example based on what you have seen.  As we look ahead to the next 50 years I’m sure we will see these growth trends continue, and even branch into new discoveries we can’t even imagine today.

And so, while the snow continues to fly and spring remains a few months away, enjoy this issue of ID and think about your own hopes, dreams, and ambitions for 2013 and beyond.  Happy New Year!