Researcher working on micro-electromechanical systems to replace pixels

Oct 28, 2011 by weblog

(PhysOrg.com) -- Wallen Mphepö of National Chiao Tung University in Hsinchu, Taiwan, appears to believe the future of computer displays lies in micro-electromechanical systems (MEMs), rather than the pixel technology now dominating computer, phone and other device screens. Current technology requires three sub-pixels for every pixel or dot displayed, a system that Mphepö believes uses too much energy and is hard on the eyes.

In a recent chat with The Economist he reveals a bit of what he and his team think is a better way.

Instead of three sub-pixels, each capable of displaying a different color, Mphepö and his team are working on a way to data using just one tiny mechanical device for each dot, each of which can be controlled individually to change its angle to diffract , thus producing the desired color. The way it works is each dot is made from a single piece of zirconium dioxide, just 30 microns across. It’s coated on one side with a very thin layer (1.23 microns) of silver to create a very tiny mirror that can be controlled electrostatically via a small electrical charge; the same kind used to run LCDs not coincidently. The result is a very tiny mirror that can be precisely controlled to reflect incident light to the degree desired.

Interestingly, because the zirconium has a much higher refractive index, it’s the material that allows for the reflecting, not the silver, which is so thin that light actually passes through it, though technically, it’s the point where the two materials meet that is doing the actual reflecting. Also interesting is the fact that the length of the mirror is exactly twice that of the wavelength of visible light; this because it allows for a process that takes advantage of light rays being amplified or canceled.

The system works because it allows for changing the path length of rays of light which hit the mirror and bounce back to the viewer, via tilting; which, because of the way the rays land on one another, result in amplification of some colors while others are canceled out.
This is not the first time Mphepö has made news with his unconventional ways of doing things. Just last year, he published a paper describing a way to create a prism-patterned 3D screen. So far he isn’t giving away how far he and his team have come in developing this new micro-electromechanical system or whether they are close to offering a demo, but if his new way of making screens comes to fruition it could mean either much higher resolution screens or drastically cheaper ones, depending on which way manufactures choose to go with it. It would also mean screens that could be read indoors or out, similar to those using e-Ink technology, such as the Kindle.

Explore further: Fiber-optic microscope will help physicians detect cancer, diseases at early stages

More information: Wallen Mphepö's previous research was covered in the PhysOrg.com feature: Prism-patterned screen brings paradigm shift to 3D displays

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User comments : 10

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baudrunner
1.8 / 5 (5) Oct 28, 2011
I remember imagining something like that about 30 years ago, but I don't know why anyone would want to venture into this, what with OLEDs already here and that being just so great and just so simple to make. Want a more expensive TV? This is just a useless toy that many of the very rich would buy.

It's a short article that mentions no benefits.
pauljpease
5 / 5 (2) Oct 28, 2011
I remember imagining something like that about 30 years ago, but I don't know why anyone would want to venture into this, what with OLEDs already here and that being just so great and just so simple to make. Want a more expensive TV? This is just a useless toy that many of the very rich would buy.

It's a short article that mentions no benefits.


They did mention benefits. Higher resolution or lower cost. And can be viewed in different lighting conditions, unlike LED or OLED. Also, OLEDs are not that stable, I'm guessing a purely mechanical system won't get degraded over time like organic molecules do.
that_guy
1 / 5 (1) Oct 28, 2011
They didn't mention real benefits - They mentioned potential benefits. That's the difference between a yard and a mile.

In some ways, this is very similar to E-ink. However, The cutting edge of e-ink display research has all the benefits of a MEMs display without the drawbacks. Arguably, you could call e-ink a type MEMs.

A MEMs display is mechanical and the typical failure mode is likely to be pixels gradually dying, a single pixel at a time (Rather than uniform dimming or slowly losing crispness like plasmas, LCDs, and OLEDs). If I have one dead pixel in my screen, it drives me crazy.

Viewing angle. This method uses the angle of the micro mirror to produce a certain color of light. Due to the physics involved, certain colors will be stronger in some directions than others. The saturation of various colors will vary with viewing position, and will be completely washed out or unviewable beyond a certain point.

Will still need a backlight - most people watch tv at night
kaasinees
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 28, 2011
Nothing will replace pixels. They will always be pixels, just that the hardware displays pixels in a different way.

All it does is allow higher resolutions.
Callippo
4 / 5 (4) Oct 28, 2011
It's a short article that mentions no benefits.

The benefits are quite apparent - the production of 3D displays for mobile phones etc. which would create a sense of depth through parallax. It's quite serious stuff and potentialy lucrative business instead.
Nerdyguy
5 / 5 (6) Oct 28, 2011
I remember imagining something like that about 30 years ago, but I don't know why anyone would want to venture into this, what with OLEDs already here and that being just so great and just so simple to make. Want a more expensive TV? This is just a useless toy that many of the very rich would buy.

It's a short article that mentions no benefits.


FROM THE ECONOMIST:

"...could improve a screens resolution, by tripling the number of pixels which will fit on it. Alternatively, it could reduce by two-thirds the number of transistors needed to control the screen, with a concomitant drop in cost."
Nerdyguy
5 / 5 (5) Oct 28, 2011
FROM THE ECONOMIST: "...could improve a screens resolution, by tripling the number of pixels which will fit on it. Alternatively, it could reduce by two-thirds the number of transistors needed to control the screen, with a concomitant drop in cost."
progressive
not rated yet Oct 29, 2011
it seems that the LCD and OLED Technologies operation is like the proposed one. Maybe it would has a dominant property in cost, maintenance or the lifespan!
Sepp
not rated yet Nov 02, 2011
It seems like a great advance. In a LED screen, we just use one third of the screen surface for actual display as different color pixels fit into one pixel space are used alternatively.

This new way of doing things would add a lot more definition/saturation to the display. If workable, it could go a long way and it might take over from today's LEDs if it's cheaper as well.
CHollman82
1 / 5 (5) Nov 02, 2011
Want a more expensive TV? This is just a useless toy that many of the very rich would buy.

It's a short article that mentions no benefits.


"if his new way of making screens comes to fruition it could mean either much higher resolution screens or drastically cheaper ones, depending on which way manufactures choose to go with it. It would also mean screens that could be read indoors or out, similar to those using e-Ink technology, such as the Kindle."

Try reading the article.

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