A small startup in Texas has announced a revolutionary technology that promises bigger, thinner and cheaper screens by using a state-of-the-art semiconductor device in traditional cathode ray tubes (CRTs).
Hoping to help CRT manufacturers compete against display technologies, Extreme Devices has developed the E-Chip, a field emission array with thousands of diamond micro-tips that uses cold-emission electron guns instead of conventional thermionic cathodes.
"The process of using heat to generate electrons in TV screens is about 60 years old," said Kent Kalar, chief executive of Extreme Devices. "We have built a chip using cold-emissions that is more flexible, allows better control of the beam and maintains picture quality."
This method eliminates warm-up, so screens turn on instantly, and enables manufacturers to reduce the depth of the monitor by about half for a 19-inch screen, although Kalar stressed that Extreme Devices is not focused solely on building a flat-panel TV.
Backed by Dell Ventures, an investment arm of Dell Computers, Extreme Devices is currently working with an unnamed CRT manufacturer to qualify the E-chip before production, which is planned for next year.
According to Rhoda Alexander, director of monitor research at display market and technology research firm Stanford Resources, the timing may work out well in terms of market dynamics.
Due to low prices and high demand, the current shortage in flat-panel LCD monitors, particularly 15-inch ones, is expected to continue throughout 2002.
"If you put the best CRT next to the best LCD, colour saturation and response time still come out in favour of the CRT," said Alexander. "However, LCD and plasma developers have made tremendous inroads to close the gap, so it's good enough for most customers who are willing to pay for a lesser footprint."
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