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LCD Blue Phase Screens

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The TV, computer, and gaming industries are constantly seeking improvement in display screens. To this end, they’ve poured huge amounts of money and countless man hours into technical research. Their efforts have paid off handsomely. The last fifteen years have seen the consumer release of high definition (HD), LCD, LED, and OLED screens. Our TV screens are much bigger than before, and the pictures are sharper, with greatly improved color saturation.

Innovations in the Last Three Years

Within the last three years, we’ve seen the release of 4K, Ultra HD, and high dynamic range (HDR) displays. All offer huge improvements in picture quality, but they could do only so much for the small screens used in smart phones and tablets. They could fit only so many pixels into a given amount of space without unacceptably high energy consumption.

Within the last month, though researchers at the University of Central Florida announced a development that could be a game changer. It is the blue phase liquid crystal display.

The blue phase LCD actually is not new. Samsung built a prototype nearly ten years ago. That version, though, was highly inefficient, consuming huge amounts of power because it required high voltages, and its capacitor was very slow in charging, so the picture would appear to flicker.

What has Changed in Blue Phase LCD?

The UCF team claims that their version of the blue phase LCD addresses these shortcomings and offers massive improvement over current displays.

Existing consumer displays use thin film transistors. These apply the voltage needed to control light transmission for each pixel. For each subpixel, red, green, and blue filters combine to produce all the colors we see. Combining all three colors produces white.

Blue phase LCD screens speed up the color switching, or “refreshing” of the pixels to about ten times the rate of standard LCDs. Because of the switching speed, the light doesn’t have to pass through color filters. Blue, green, and red LCDs produce all colors directly. Display colors are much more vivid because the absence of filters prevents color “cross-talk”, and because filters are unnecessary, the blue phase LCD offers three times the optical efficiency.

Tsin-Shon Wu, who led the optoelectronics team at UCF, compared his team’s brainchild to the Apple Retina display. “Today’s Apple Retina displays have a resolution density of about 500 pixels per inch”, he said. “With our new technology, a resolution density of 1,500 pixels per inch could be achieved on the same sized screen. This is especially attractive for virtual reality headsets and augmented reality technology, which must achieve high resolution in a small screen to look sharp when placed close to our eyes.”

Wu said he will be working with computer and TV industries to develop a working prototype. He expects to see one within about a year. Very likely, this means a consumer version of the blue phase LCD screen will be on the market within a year after that.

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