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Spin-out targets flat panel displays

10 May 2005

A one-month old spin-out believes that it has found a cost-effective way to make field-emission displays.

Quantum Filament Technologies (QFT), a new spin-out from the UK universities of Dundee and Surrey, believes it has hit upon a technology that will allow the cost-effective production of high-quality flat screens known as field-emission displays (FEDs).

FEDs are essentially flat cathode ray tubes (CRT) that are a few millieters thick. In the past, several firms have tried to commercialise FEDs but these attempts have been abandoned due to manufacturing difficulties.

QFT's solution lies with producing an array of micron-sized tips on the surface of an amorphous silicon backplane. These tips then direct electrons towards each pixel on a phosphor-coated screen.

"QFT has come up with a realisable solution to produce FEDs," Roy Clarke, the company's managing director told Optics.org. "The method is based on standard materials and processing methods. It creates a true flat CRT with all the associated benefits [of a CRT] such as brightness, speed and viewing angle but with the size and geometry of an LCD or a plasma display."

QFT's approach uses a laser to produce a unique internal structure within the amorphous silicon. "The internal processing creates structures that produce the highly desirable field emission properties," explained Clarke. "A lot of the field enhancement takes place within the internal structure of the silicon and not in the geometry of the tips."

On the back of this idea, QFT has just secured first round funding in excess of EURO 1 million. This will allow a prototype development programme in collboration with the universities of Dundee and Surrey as well as a university in Korea.

QFT's current prototypes can only be demonstrated under vacuum. This new programme will allow the company to produce stand-alone devices that show-off all the features of its field-emission technology.

Clarke says the technology is scalable and could be used in any display. "In the near term we know that niche markets such as the medical and avionics industries are seeking high performance displays to replace conventional instrumentation in life-critical environments," he added. "But the technology is equally suited to mass-market sectors such as wall-hanging TVs and computer monitors."

QFT's ultimate goal is to see its idea used in all display sectors and to license the technology to major manufacturers. According to Clarke, QFT is already talking to several Asian display companies.

For more information, please contact Roy Clarke at Quantum Filament Technologies

Jacqueline Hewett is technology editor on Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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