Developments to Watch
ULTRATHIN LCDs START COMING INTO VIEW
Liquid-crystal displays are getting cheaper and slimmer, but they're still too bulky and expensive for such uses as virtual-reality goggles and hang-on-the-wall TV sets. Those futuristic products are beginning to look more practical, however, thanks to work at the Hirst Research Center of General Electric Co. PLC in London.
Researchers at the company, no relation to GE in the U. S., have developed a technique for etching electronic circuits in silicon laid down at the edges of the LCD's glass plate. The trick is keeping the temperature low enough so the glass doesn't start to melt, since depositing semiconductor-grade silicon normally requires heat in the 600F range. Putting the control circuits on the glass not only eliminates the need for several chips but also cuts out 94% of the wire connections to the screen. Next, the Hirst researchers will focus on improving the manufacturability and increasing the size of the displays. If all goes well, they expect products such as flat-panel displays to follow in about two years.EDITED BY PETER COY