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Japanese firm preps FED panel ramp up by late '09

Posted: 08 Aug 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:FED panel? field emission display? LCD? plasma display?

Sony Corp. spin-off firm Field Emission Technologies Inc. is poised to mass produce 26-inch field-emission display (FED) panels by the end of 2009.

Compared with other flat-panel technologies such as LCDs and plasma displays, FEDs have long been known for their superior performance, including higher contrast ratio, lower power consumption and wider viewing angle. Charles Spindt at SRI International developed the principles for FED technology in 1968.

Despite all of its advantages, FED has one big drawback: They are hard to make.

No one has been able to mass produce FEDs as a video display due to several technical issues. Manufacturing challenges include problems related to field-emitter structures and the difficulty of attaining high vacuum levels required by FEDs.

Spindts electrodes
FE Technologies claims to have found solutions to the mass-production problem. FEDs are similar to CRTs. Instead of a single electron gun, FE Technologies' FED uses a large array of cone-shaped electrodes, called "Spindts." Many Spindts positioned behind each phosphor dot emit electrons through a process known as field emission.

By charging at 9kV electro differentials between anode and cathode substrates, electrons are generated that light up fluorescent material located in front of anode substrate. Electron generation is controlled by a gate electrode.

Spindt structures use the field-emission principle, which generates electrons into a vacuum at room temperature. There is no need for heating, the company said, since the process leverages a tunnel effect. Self discharge between the emitter and gate electrode is blocked by using a resistance layer.

A conventional Spindt device was structured by assigning one Spindt per pixel. Therefore, the size of each Spindt needed to be exactly identical, otherwise, the brightness of each pixel became uneven, lowering image quality.

The company corrected the problem by placing multiple numbers of Spindts, called Nano-Spindt Structure, per pixel, thus evening Spindt differentials.

"Fourteen hundred Spindts are required to keep pixel brightness differentials within 2 percent," said Hiroyuki Ikeda, general manager of marketing at FE Technologies. Using this structure, the electric current per Spindt decreased while Spindt operating lifetime was improved, the company said.

Mass-production deadline
The mission of the Sony spinoff is to investigate FED business opportunities, said Shohei Hasegawa, FE Technologies' president and CEO. "The idea of becoming independent was triggered by successful development of spacer materials," Hasagawa said.

FED technology requires a high vacuum level. Spacer material is necessary to maintain the shape between the anode and cathode substrate against air pressure. "We needed to develop electrically- transparent material, which neither charges itself nor becomes conductive, but can maintain an electro-field between anode and cathode, in parallel," he added.

To help it meet the mass-production deadline in late 2009, FE Technologies will acquire Pioneer's Kagoshima plant by the end of 2008. The Japanese company will invest $183 million to $274 million (20 to 30 billion yen) in manufacturing equipment. The firm will use its 4G glass substrate (730mm x 920mm), each substrate yielding a pair of 26-inch panels.

The company said it will proceed with the mass production of FED panels using 5,000 glass substrates per month. The initial application for FE Technologies' 26-inch FED panels will be as "master" monitors, used by TV broadcasters to check picture quality. Neither LCDs nor plasma displays are said to satisfy the high quality standard required by such master monitors.

- Yoichiro Hata
EE Times

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