Contact: Chris Williamson, Electrical Engineering
Smectic A liquid crystal displays were first developed within CAPE in the 1970s and the technology was initially demonstrated using glass cells. The research team in CAPE has successfully developed and demonstrated this technology using 100 micron thick plastic films. They believe that they are the first in the world to have done this.
The new displays have a number of advantages when compared to other techniques. The pixels are bistable, which means that no power is needed to keep them transparent or opaque, just to switch states. They are transflective, so do not need a backlight unless used in the dark, and maintain a very high contrast under direct sunlight. They also have a wide viewing angle. Limitations include having a relatively low refresh rate and currently being monochrome only.
The display has been developed to be low cost and easily scalable in manufacture. It uses a roll-to-roll continuous production line, which takes the conductive plastic films and the liquid crystal itself, and produces the complete display. Pixels can be turned on and off individually, without needing to refresh the whole screen every time.
The question for the i-Team is to investigate applications where the particular features of this display are needed. Low power monochrome displays are all around us in applications such as road signage, bus and train information and in-store price labelling. The i-Team will need to investigate these existing applications, and also initiate ideas for new areas which could be enhanced by using displays where none are used at present.