Friday, May 11, 2001
As you read this story on your computer screen, think about the technology that paints the letters and icons on your monitor.
For 95 years, the method of making flat-panel LCDs (liquid crystal displays) has been the same--rubbing a polymer substrate with a velvet paint roller. This aligns the molecules so they rotate in response to an electric signal, thus turning pixels on and off.
Now IBM researchers (http://www.ibm.com) have found a non-contact method to do the same thing. They begin with a layer of carbon atoms, instead of the polymer substrate, then zap it with an ion gun to create rows of atoms, like so many plants in a garden. Finally, they pour in the liquid crystal molecules, which align perfectly with those atoms.
The new method is quicker, it avoids streaks and scratches, and it allows real-time quality control, IBM says. The company plans to create a production line by year-end, and also to license the method to other manufacturers.