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A plasma display panel (PDP) is a type of flat panel display common to large TV displays 30

inches (76 cm) or larger. They are called "plasma" displays because they use small cells
containing electrically charged ionized gases, which are plasmas.
Plasma displays have lost nearly all market share, mostly due to competition from low-cost LCD and
more expensive but high-contrast OLED flat-panel displays; manufacturing for the United States
retail market ended in 2014, and manufacturing for the Chinese market was expected to end in
Plasma displays are bright (1,000 lux or higher for the module), have a wide color gamut, and can be
produced in fairly large sizesup to 3.8 metres (150 in) diagonally. They had a very low-luminance
"dark-room" black level compared with the lighter grey of the unilluminated parts of an LCD screen at
least in the early history of the competing technologies (in the early history of plasma panels the
blacks were blacker on plasmas and greyer on LCDs).[3] LED-backlit LCD televisions have been
developed to reduce this distinction. The display panel itself is about 6 cm (2.4 in) thick, generally
allowing the device's total thickness (including electronics) to be less than 10 cm (3.9 in). Power
consumption varies greatly with picture content, with bright scenes drawing significantly more power
than darker ones this is also true for CRTs as well as modern LCDs where LED backlight
brightness is adjusted dynamically. The plasma that illuminates the screen can reach a temperature
of at least 1200 C (2200 F). Typical power consumption is 400 watts for a 127 cm (50 in) screen.
Most screens are set to "shop" mode by default, which draws at least twice the power (around 500
700 watts) of a "home" setting of less extreme brightness.[4] The lifetime of the latest generation of
plasma displays is estimated at 100,000 hours of actual display time, or 27 years at 10 hours per
day. This is the estimated time over which maximum picture brightness degrades to half the original
Plasma screens are made out of glass. This may cause glare from reflected objects in the viewing
area.[clarification needed] Currently, plasma panels cannot be economically manufactured in screen sizes
smaller than 82 centimetres (32 in). Although a few companies have been able to make
plasma enhanced-definition televisions (EDTV) this small, even fewer have made 32 inch
plasma HDTVs. With the trend toward large-screen television technology, the 32 inch screen size is
rapidly disappearing. Though considered bulky and thick compared with their LCD counterparts,
some sets such as Panasonic's Z1 and Samsung's B860 series are as slim as 2.5 cm (1 in) thick
making them comparable to LCDs in this respect.
Competing display technologies include cathode ray tube (CRT), organic light-emitting
diode (OLED), AMLCD, Digital Light Processing DLP, SED-tv, LED display, field emission
display (FED), and quantum dot display (QLED).

Capable of producing deeper blacks allowing for superior contrast ratio[6][7][8]
Wider viewing angles than those of LCD; images do not suffer from degradation at less than
straight ahead angles like LCDs. LCDs using IPS technology have the widest angles, but they
do not equal the range of plasma primarily due to "IPS glow", a generally whitish haze that
appears due to the nature of the IPS pixel design.[6][7]
Less visible motion blur, thanks in large part to very high refresh rates and a faster response
time, contributing to superior performance when displaying content with significant amounts of
rapid motion.[6][7][9][10]
Superior uniformity. LCD panel backlights nearly always produce uneven brightness levels,
although this is not always noticeable. High-end computer monitors have technologies to try to
compensate for the uniformity problem.[11][12]
Unaffected by clouding from the polishing process. Some LCD panel types, like IPS, require a
polishing process that can introduce a haze usually referred to as "clouding".[13]
Less expensive for the buyer per square inch than LCD, particularly when equivalent
performance is considered.[14]
Earlier generation displays were more susceptible to screen burn-in and image retention. Recent
models have a pixel orbiter that moves the entire picture slower than is noticeable to the human
eye, which reduces the effect of burn-in but does not prevent it.[15]
Due to the bistable nature of the color and intensity generating method, some people will notice
that plasma displays have a shimmering or flickering effect with a number of hues, intensities
and dither patterns.
Earlier generation displays (circa 2006 and prior) had phosphors that lost luminosity over time,
resulting in gradual decline of absolute image brightness. Newer models have advertised
lifespans exceeding 100 000 hours, far longer than older CRTs [5][8]
Uses more electrical power, on average, than an LCD TV using a LED backlight. Older CCFL
backlights for LCD panels used quite a bit more power, and older plasma TVs used quite a bit
more power than recent models.[16][17]
Does not work as well at high altitudes above 6,500 feet (2,000 meters)[18] due to pressure
differential between the gasses inside the screen and the air pressure at altitude. It may cause a
buzzing noise. Manufacturers rate their screens to indicate the altitude parameters.[18]
For those who wish to listen to AM radio, or are amateur radio operators (hams) or shortwave
listeners (SWL), the radio frequency interference (RFI) from these devices can be irritating or
Plasma displays are generally heavier than LCD and may require more careful handling such as
being kept upright.

Native plasma television resolutions[edit]

Further information: Native resolution
Fixed-pixel displays such as plasma TVs scale the video image of each incoming signal to the native
resolution of the display panel. The most common native resolutions for plasma display panels are
853480 (EDTV), 1,366768 or 1,9201,080 (HDTV). As a result, picture quality varies depending
on the performance of the video scaling processor and the upscaling and downscaling algorithms
used by each display manufacturer.[20][21]

Enhanced-definition plasma television[edit]

Main article: Enhanced-definition television
Early plasma televisions were enhanced-definition (ED) with a native resolution of 840480
(discontinued) or 853480, and down-scaled their incoming High-definition video signals to match
their native display resolution.[22]
ED resolutions[edit]
The following ED resolutions were common prior to the introduction of HD displays, but have long
been phased out in favor of HD displays, as well as because the overall pixel count in ED displays is
lower than the pixel count on SD PAL displays (853x480 vs 720x576, respectively).

High-definition plasma television[edit]
Early high-definition (HD) plasma displays had a resolution of 1024x1024 and were alternate lighting
of surfaces (ALiS) panels made by Fujitsu/Hitachi.[23][24] These were interlaced displays, with non-
square pixels.[25]
Modern HDTV plasma televisions usually have a resolution of 1,024768 found on many 42 inch
plasma screens, 1,280768, 1,366768 found on 50 in, 60 in, and 65 in plasma screens,
or 1,9201,080 found in plasma screen sizes from 42 inch to 103 inch. These displays are usually
progressive displays, with non-square pixels, and will up-scale and de-interlace their
incoming standard-definition signals to match their native display resolution. 1024x768 resolution
requires that 720p content be downscaled in one direction and upscaled in the other.[26][27]
"HD" Resolutions[edit]


[clarification needed]

See also: Plasma (physics)

Ionized gases such as the ones shown here are confined to millions of tiny individual compartments across the
face of a plasma display, to collectively form a visual image.
Composition of plasma display panel

A panel of a plasma display typically comprises millions of tiny compartments in between two panels
of glass. These compartments, or "bulbs" or "cells", hold a mixture of noble gases and a minuscule
amount of another gas (e.g., mercury vapor). Just as in the fluorescent lamps over an office desk,
when a high voltage is applied across the cell, the gas in the cells forms a plasma. With flow of
electricity (electrons), some of the electrons strike mercury particles as the electrons move through
the plasma, momentarily increasing the energy level of the atom until the excess energy is shed.
Mercury sheds the energy as ultraviolet (UV) photons. The UV photons then strike phosphor that is
painted on the inside of the cell. When the UV photon strikes a phosphor molecule, it momentarily
raises the energy level of an outer orbit electron in the phosphor molecule, moving the electron from
a stable to an unstable state; the electron then sheds the excess energy as a photon at a lower
energy level than UV light; the lower energy photons are mostly in the infrared range but about 40%
are in the visible light range. Thus the input energy is converted to mostly infrared but also as visible
light. The screen heats up to between 30 and 41 C (86 and 106 F) during operation. Depending on
the phosphors used, different colors of visible light can be achieved. Each pixel in a plasma display
is made up of three cells comprising the primary colors of visible light. Varying the voltage of the
signals to the cells thus allows different perceived colors.
The long electrodes are stripes of electrically conducting material that also lies between the glass
plates in front of and behind the cells. The "address electrodes" sit behind the cells, along the rear
glass plate, and can be opaque. The transparent display electrodes are mounted in front of the cell,
along the front glass plate. As can be seen in the illustration, the electrodes are covered by an
insulating protective layer.[28]
Control circuitry charges the electrodes that cross paths at a cell, creating a voltage difference
between front and back. Some of the atoms in the gas of a cell then lose electrons and
become ionized, which creates an electrically conducting plasma of atoms, free electrons, and ions.
The collisions of the flowing electrons in the plasma with the inert gas atoms leads to light emission;
such light-emitting plasmas are known as glow discharges.[29][30][31]
Relative spectral power of Red, Green and Blue phosphors of a common plasma display. The units of spectral
power are simply raw sensor values (with a linear response at specific wavelengths).

In a monochrome plasma panel, the gas is mostly neon, and the color is the characteristic orange of
a neon-filled lamp (or sign). Once a glow discharge has been initiated in a cell, it can be maintained
by applying a low-level voltage between all the horizontal and vertical electrodeseven after the
ionizing voltage is removed. To erase a cell all voltage is removed from a pair of electrodes. This
type of panel has inherent memory. A small amount of nitrogen is added to the neon to
increase hysteresis.[citation needed] In color panels, the back of each cell is coated with a phosphor.
The ultraviolet photons emitted by the plasma excite these phosphors, which give off visible light
with colors determined by the phosphor materials. This aspect is comparable to fluorescent
lamps and to the neon signsthat use colored phosphors.
Every pixel is made up of three separate subpixel cells, each with different colored phosphors. One
subpixel has a red light phosphor, one subpixel has a green light phosphor and one subpixel has a
blue light phosphor. These colors blend together to create the overall color of the pixel, the same as
a triad of a shadow mask CRT or color LCD. Plasma panels use pulse-width modulation (PWM) to
control brightness: by varying the pulses of current flowing through the different cells thousands of
times per second, the control system can increase or decrease the intensity of each subpixel color to
create billions of different combinations of red, green and blue. In this way, the control system can
produce most of the visible colors. Plasma displays use the same phosphors as CRTs, which
accounts for the extremely accurate color reproduction when viewing television or computer video
images (which use an RGB color system designed for CRT displays).
Plasma displays are different from liquid crystal displays (LCDs), another lightweight flat-screen
display using very different technology. LCDs may use one or two large fluorescent lamps as a
backlight source, but the different colors are controlled by LCD units, which in effect behave as gates
that allow or block light through red, green, or blue filters on the front of the LCD panel.[6][32][33]

Contrast ratio[edit]
Contrast ratio is the difference between the brightest and darkest parts of an image, measured in
discrete steps, at any given moment. Generally, the higher the contrast ratio, the more realistic the
image is (though the "realism" of an image depends on many factors including color accuracy,
luminance linearity, and spatial linearity.) Contrast ratios for plasma displays are often advertised as
high as 5,000,000:1.[34] On the surface, this is a significant advantage of plasma over most other
current display technologies, a notable exception being organic light-emitting diode. Although there
are no industry-wide guidelines for reporting contrast ratio, most manufacturers follow either the
ANSI standard or perform a full-on-full-off test. The ANSI standard uses a checkered test pattern
whereby the darkest blacks and the lightest whites are simultaneously measured, yielding the most
accurate "real-world" ratings. In contrast, a full-on-full-off test measures the ratio using a pure black
screen and a pure white screen, which gives higher values but does not represent a typical viewing
scenario. Some displays, using many different technologies, have some "leakage" of light, through
either optical or electronic means, from lit pixels to adjacent pixels so that dark pixels that are near
bright ones appear less dark than they do during a full-off display. Manufacturers can further
artificially improve the reported contrast ratio by increasing the contrast and brightness settings to
achieve the highest test values. However, a contrast ratio generated by this method is misleading,
as content would be essentially unwatchable at such settings.[35][36][37]
Each cell on a plasma display must be precharged before it is lit, otherwise the cell would not
respond quickly enough. This precharging means the cells cannot achieve a true black,[citation needed],
whereas an LED backlit LCD panel can actually turn off parts of the backlight, in "spots" or "patches"
(this technique, however, does not prevent the large accumulated passive light of adjacent lamps,
and the reflection media, from returning values from within the panel). Some manufacturers have
reduced the precharge and the associated background glow, to the point where black levels on
modern plasmas are starting to become close to some high-end CRTs Sony and Mitsubishi
produced before ten years before the comparable plasma displays. It is important to note that
plasma displays were developed for ten more years than CRTs; it is almost certain that if CRTs had
been developed for as long as plasma displays were, the contrast on CRTs would have been far
better than contrast on the plasma displays. With an LCD, black pixels are generated by a light
polarization method; many panels are unable to completely block the underlying backlight. More
recent LCD panels using LED illumination can automatically reduce the backlighting on darker
scenes, though this method cannot be used in high-contrast scenes, leaving some light showing
from black parts of an image with bright parts, such as (at the extreme) a solid black screen with one
fine intense bright line. This is called a "halo" effect which has been minimized on newer LED-backlit
LCDs with local dimming. Edgelit models cannot compete with this as the light is reflected via a light
guide to distribute the light behind the panel.[6][7][8]

Screen burn-in[edit]
Main article: Screen burn-in

An example of a plasma display that has suffered severe burn-in from static text

Image burn-in occurs on CRTs and plasma panels when the same picture is displayed for long
periods. This causes the phosphors to overheat, losing some of their luminosity and producing a
"shadow" image that is visible with the power off. Burn-in is especially a problem on plasma panels
because they run hotter than CRTs. Early plasma televisions were plagued by burn-in, making it
impossible to use video games or anything else that displayed static images.
Plasma displays also exhibit another image retention issue which is sometimes confused
with screen burn-in damage. In this mode, when a group of pixels are run at high brightness (when
displaying white, for example) for an extended period, a charge build-up in the pixel structure occurs
and a ghost image can be seen. However, unlike burn-in, this charge build-up is transient and self-
corrects after the image condition that caused the effect has been removed and a long enough
period has passed (with the display either off or on).
Plasma manufacturers have tried various ways of reducing burn-in such as using gray pillarboxes,
pixel orbiters and image washing routines, but none to date have eliminated the problem and all
plasma manufacturers continue to exclude burn-in from their warranties.[8][38]

Environmental impact[edit]
See also: Discontinuation in 2010s
Plasma screens have been lagging behind CRT and LCD screens in terms of energy consumption
efficiency.[39] To reduce the energy consumption, new technologies are also being found.[40]Although it
can be expected[needs update] that plasma screens will continue to become more energy efficient in the
future, a growing problem is that people tend to keep their old TVs running and an increasing trend
to escalating screen sizes.[41][42][43][44][45][46]


Plasma displays were first used in PLATO computer terminals. This PLATO V model illustrates the display's
monochromatic orange glow seen in 1981.[47]

In 1936, Klmn Tihanyi, a Hungarian engineer, described the principle of "plasma television" and
conceived the first flat-panel display system.[48][49]
The monochrome plasma video display was co-invented in 1964 at the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign by Donald Bitzer, H. Gene Slottow, and graduate student Robert Willson for
the PLATO Computer System.[50] The original neon orange monochrome Digivue display panels built
by glass producer Owens-Illinois were very popular in the early 1970s because they were rugged
and needed neither memory nor circuitry to refresh the images. A long period of sales decline
occurred in the late 1970s because semiconductor memory made CRT displays cheaper than the
2500 USD512 x 512 PLATO plasma displays.[citation needed] Nonetheless, the plasma displays' relatively
large screen size and 1 inch thickness made them suitable for high-profile placement in lobbies and
stock exchanges.
Burroughs Corporation, a maker of adding machines and computers, developed the Panaplex
display in the early 1970s. The Panaplex display, generically referred to as a gas-discharge or gas-
plasma display,[51] uses the same technology as later plasma video displays, but began life as seven-
segment display for use in adding machines. They became popular for their bright orange luminous
look and found nearly ubiquitous use in cash registers, calculators, pinball machines,
aircraft avionics such as radios, navigational instruments, and stormscopes; test equipment such
as frequency counters and multimeters; and generally anything that previously used nixie
tube or numitron displays with a high digit-count throughout the late 1970s and into the 1990s.
These displays remained popular until LEDs gained popularity because of their low-current draw and
module-flexibility, but are still found in some applications where their high-brightness is desired, such
as pinball machines and avionics. Pinball displays started with six- and seven-digit seven-segment
displays and later evolved into 16-segment alphanumeric displays, and later into 128x32 dot-matrix
displays in 1990, which are still used today.

In 1983, IBM introduced a 19 inches (48 cm) orange-on-black monochrome display (model 3290
'information panel') which was able to show up to four simultaneous IBM 3270 terminal sessions.
Due to heavy competition from monochrome LCDs, in 1987 IBM planned to shut down its factory in
upstate New York, the largest plasma plant in the world, in favor of manufacturing mainframe
computers.[52] Consequently, Larry Weber co-founded a startup company Plasmaco with Stephen
Globus, as well as James Kehoe, who was the IBM plant manager, and bought the plant from IBM.
Weber stayed in Urbana as CTO until 1990, then moved to upstate New York to work at Plasmaco.

In 1992, Fujitsu introduced the world's first 21-inch (53 cm) full-color display. It was a hybrid, the
plasma display created at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and NHK Science &
Technology Research Laboratories.
In 1994, Weber demonstrated a color plasma display at an industry convention in San
Jose. Panasonic Corporation began a joint development project with Plasmaco, which led in 1996 to
the purchase of Plasmaco, its color AC technology, and its American factory.
In 1995, Fujitsu introduced the first 42-inch (107 cm) plasma display;[53] it had 852x480 resolution and
was progressively scanned.[54] Also in 1997, Philips introduced a 42-inch (107 cm) display, with
852x480 resolution. It was the only plasma to be displayed to the retail public in four Sears locations
in the US. The price was US$14,999 and included in-home installation. Later in
1997, Pioneer started selling their first plasma television to the public, and others followed.

Average plasma displays have become one quarter the thickness from 2006 to 2011

In late 2006, analysts noted that LCDs overtook plasmas, particularly in the 40-inch (1.0 m) and
above segment where plasma had previously gained market share.[55] Another industry trend is the
consolidation of manufacturers of plasma displays, with around 50 brands available but only five
manufacturers. In the first quarter of 2008 a comparison of worldwide TV sales breaks down to 22.1
million for direct-view CRT, 21.1 million for LCD, 2.8 million for Plasma, and 0.1 million for rear-
Until the early 2000s, plasma displays were the most popular choice for HDTV flat panel display as
they had many benefits over LCDs. Beyond plasma's deeper blacks, increased contrast, faster
response time, greater color spectrum, and wider viewing angle; they were also much bigger than
LCDs, and it was believed that LCDs were suited only to smaller sized televisions. However,
improvements in VLSI fabrication have since narrowed the technological gap. The increased size,
lower weight, falling prices, and often lower electrical power consumption of LCDs made them
competitive with plasma television sets.
Screen sizes have increased since the introduction of plasma displays. The largest plasma video
display in the world at the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, was a 150
inches (380 cm) unit manufactured by Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic) standing 6 ft
(180 cm) tall by 11 ft (330 cm) wide.[57][58]

At the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Panasonic introduced their 152" 2160p 3D
plasma. In 2010 Panasonic shipped 19.1 million plasma TV panels.[59]
In 2010, the shipments of plasma TVs reached 18.2 million units globally.[60] Since that time,
shipments of plasma TVs have declined substantially. This decline has been attributed to the
competition from liquid crystal (LCD) televisions, whose prices have fallen more rapidly than those of
the plasma TVs.[61] In late 2013, Panasonic announced that they would stop producing plasma TVs
from March 2014 onwards.[62] In 2014, LG and Samsung discontinued plasma TV production as
well,[63][64] effectively killing the technology, probably because of lowering demand.

Notable display manufacturers[edit]

Most have discontinued doing so, but at one time or another all of these companies have produced
plasma displays:

Beko (known sometimes as grundig)

Vestel (both under Vestel name but also under various brands)
Panasonic was the biggest plasma display manufacturer until 2013, when it decided to discontinue
plasma production. In the following months, Samsung and LG also ceased production of plasma
sets. Panasonic, Samsung and LG were the last plasma manufacturers for the U.S. retail market.

LED display
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article is about Light-emitting diode (LED) based video displays. For LED-backlighted displays,
see LED-backlit LCD. For matrixed text displays, see Dot-matrix display.
Not to be confused with Vacuum fluorescent display.
For segment displays, see Seven-segment display, Nine-segment display, Fourteen-segment
display, and Sixteen-segment display.
Detail view of a LED display with a matrix of red, green and blue diodes

The 1,500-foot (460 m) long LED display on the Fremont Street Experience in Downtown Las
Vegas, Nevada is currently the largest in the world.

An LED display is a flat panel display, which uses an array of light-emitting diodes as pixels for
a video display. Their brightness allows them to be used outdoors in store signs and billboards, and
in recent years they have also become commonly used in destination signs on public
transport vehicles. LED displays are capable of providing general illumination in addition to visual
display, as when used for stage lighting or other decorative (as opposed to informational) purposes.


2See also
4External links

The first true all-LED flat panel television screen was possibly developed, demonstrated and
documented by James P. Mitchell in 1977. Initial public recognition came from the Westinghouse
Educational Foundation Science Talent Search group, a Science Service organization.[1] The paper
entry was named in the "Honors Group" publicized to universities on January 25, 1978.[2] The paper
was subsequently invited and presented at the Iowa Academy of Science at the University of
Northern Iowa.[3][4] The operational prototype was displayed at the Eastern Iowa SEF[5] on March 18
and obtained a top "Physical Sciences" award and IEEE recognition. The project was again
displayed at the 29th International SEF at the Anaheim Ca. Convention Center on May 810.[6] The
-inch thin miniature flat panel modular prototype, scientific paper, and full screen (tiled LED matrix)
schematic with video interface were displayed at this event.[7][8] It received awards
by NASA[9] and General Motors Corporation.[10][11][12] This project marked some of the earliest progress
towards the replacement of the 70+ year old high-voltage analog CRT system (cathode-ray
tube technology) with a digital x-y scanned LED matrix driven with a NTSC television RF video
format. Mitchell's paper projected the future replacement of CRTs and included foreseen application
to battery operated devices due the advantages of low-power. Displacement of the electromagnetic
scan systems included the removal of inductive deflection, electron beam and color convergence
circuits and has been a significant achievement. The unique properties of the light emitting diode as
an emissive device simplifies matrix scanning complexity and has helped the modern television
adapt to digital communications and shrink into its current thin form factor.
The 1977 model was monochromatic by design. The efficient Blue LED completing the color triad,
did not arrive for another decade. Large displays now use high-brightness diodes to generate a wide
spectrum of colors. It took three decades and organic light-emitting diodes for Sony to introduce an
OLED TV, the Sony XEL-1 OLED screen which was marketed in 2009. Later, at CES 2012, Sony
presented Crystal LED, a TV with a true LED-display (in which LEDs are used to produce actual
images rather than acting as backlighting for other types of display, as in LED-backlit LCDs which
are commonly marketed as LED TVs).
The 2011 UEFA Champions League Final match between Manchester United and Barcelona was
broadcast live in 3D format in Gothenburg (Sweden), on an EKTA screen. It had a refresh rate of
100 Hz, a diagonal of 7.11 m (23 ft 3.92 in) and a display area of 6.1923.483 m, and was listed in
the Guinness Book of Records as the largest LED 3D TV.[13][14

LCD television
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A generic LCD TV, with speakers on either side of the screen

Liquid-crystal-display televisions (LCD TV) are television sets that use liquid-crystal displays to
produce images. LCD televisions are thinner and lighter than cathode ray tube (CRTs) of similar
display size, and are available in much larger sizes. When manufacturing costs fell, this combination
of features made LCDs practical for television receivers.
In 2007, LCD televisions surpassed sales of CRT-based televisions worldwide for the first time,[citation
and their sales figures relative to other technologies are accelerating. LCD TVs are quickly
displacing the only major competitors in the large-screen market, the plasma display panel and rear-
projection television. LCDs are, by far, the most widely produced and sold television display type.
LCDs also have a variety of disadvantages. Other technologies address these weaknesses,
including organic light-emitting diodes (OLED), FED and SED, but as of 2014 none of these have
entered widespread production for TV displays.

Basic LCD concepts[edit]

LCD television at home together with PlayStation 3 and some other equipment

LCD televisions produce a colored image by selectively filtering white light. The light was provided
by a series of cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFLs) at the back of the screen. Today, most LCD-
TV displays use white or colored LEDs as backlighting instead. Millions of individual LCD shutters,
arranged in a grid, open and close to allow a metered amount of the white light through. Each
shutter is paired with a colored filter to remove all but the red, green or blue (RGB) portion of the
light from the original white source. Each shutterfilter pair forms a single sub-pixel. The sub-pixels
are so small that when the display is viewed from even a short distance, the individual colors blend
together to produce a single spot of color, a pixel. The shade of color is controlled by changing the
relative intensity of the light passing through the sub-pixels.
Liquid crystals encompass a wide range of (typically) rod-shaped polymers that naturally form into
thin, ordered layers, as opposed to the more random alignment of a normal liquid. Some of these,
the nematic liquid crystals, also show an alignment effect between the layers. The particular
direction of the alignment of a nematic liquid crystal can be set by placing it in contact with
an alignment layer or director, which is essentially a material with microscopic grooves in it, on the
supporting substrates. When placed on a director, the layer in contact will align itself with the
grooves, and the layers above will subsequently align themselves with the layers below, the bulk
material taking on the director's alignment. In the case of a Twisted Nematic (TN) LCD, this effect is
utilized by using two directors arranged at right angles and placed close together with the liquid
crystal between them. This forces the layers to align themselves in two directions, creating a twisted
structure with each layer aligned at a slightly different angle to the ones on either side.
LCD shutters consist of a stack of three primary elements. On the bottom and top of the shutter
are polarizer plates set at right angles. Normally light cannot travel through a pair of polarizers
arranged in this fashion, and the display would be black. The polarizers also carry the directors to
create the twisted structure aligned with the polarizers on either side. As the light flows out of the
rear polarizer, it will naturally follow the liquid crystal's twist, exiting the front of the liquid crystal
having been rotated through the correct angle, that allows it to pass through the front polarizer.
LCDs are normally transparent in this mode of operation.
To turn a shutter off, a voltage is applied across it from front to back. The rod-shaped molecules
align themselves with the electric field instead of the directors, distorting the twisted structure. The
light no longer changes polarization as it flows through the liquid crystal, and can no longer pass
through the front polarizer. By controlling the voltage applied across the liquid crystal, the amount of
remaining twist can be selected. This allows the transparency of the shutter to be controlled. To
improve switching time, the cells are placed under pressure, which increases the force to re-align
themselves with the directors when the field is turned off.
Several other variations and modifications have been used in order to improve performance in
certain applications. In-Plane Switching displays (IPS and S-IPS) offer wider viewing angles and
better color reproduction, but are more difficult to construct and have slightly slower response times.
Vertical Alignment (VA, S-PVA and MVA) offer higher contrast ratios and good response times, but
suffer from color shifting when viewed from the side. In general, all of these displays work in a similar
fashion by controlling the polarization of the light source.

Addressing sub-pixels[edit]

A close-up (300) view of a typical LCD, clearly showing the sub-pixel structure. The "notch" at the lower left of
each sub-pixel is the thin-film transistor. The associated capacitors and addressing lines are located around the
shutter, in the dark areas.

In order to address a single shutter on the display, a series of electrodes is deposited on the plates
on either side of the liquid crystal. One side has horizontal stripes that form rows, the other has
vertical stripes that form columns. By supplying voltage to one row and one column, a field will be
generated at the point where they cross. Since a metal electrode would be opaque, LCDs use
electrodes made of a transparent conductor, typically indium tin oxide.
Since addressing a single shutter requires power to be supplied to an entire row and column, some
of the field always leaks out into the surrounding shutters. Liquid crystals are quite sensitive, and
even small amounts of leaked field will cause some level of switching to occur. This partial switching
of the surrounding shutters blurs the resulting image. Another problem in early LCD systems was the
voltages needed to set the shutters to a particular twist was very low, but that voltage was too low to
make the crystals re-align with reasonable performance. This resulted in slow response times and
led to easily visible "ghosting" on these displays on fast-moving images, like a mouse cursor on a
computer screen. Even scrolling text often rendered as an unreadable blur, and the switching speed
was far too slow to use as a useful television display.
In order to attack these problems, modern LCDs use an active matrix design. Instead of powering
both electrodes, one set, typically the front, is attached to a common ground. On the rear, each
shutter is paired with a thin-film transistor that switches on in response to widely separated voltage
levels, say 0 and +5 volts. A new addressing line, the gate line, is added as a separate switch for the
transistors. The rows and columns are addressed as before, but the transistors ensure that only the
single shutter at the crossing point is addressed; any leaked field is too small to switch the
surrounding transistors. When switched on, a constant and relatively high amount of charge flows
from the source line through the transistor and into an associated capacitor. The capacitor is
charged up until it holds the correct control voltage, slowly leaking this through the crystal to the
common ground. The current is very fast and not suitable for fine control of the resulting store
charge, so pulse code modulation is used to accurately control the overall flow. Not only does this
allow for very accurate control over the shutters, since the capacitor can be filled or drained quickly,
but the response time of the shutter is dramatically improved as well.

Building a display[edit]
A typical shutter assembly consists of a sandwich of several layers deposited on two thin glass
sheets forming the front and back of the display. For smaller display sizes (under 30 inches (760
mm)), the glass sheets can be replaced with plastic.
The rear sheet starts with a polarizing film, the glass sheet, the active matrix components and
addressing electrodes, and then the director. The front sheet is similar, but lacks the active matrix
components, replacing those with the patterned color filters. Using a multi-step construction process,
both sheets can be produced on the same assembly line. The liquid crystal is placed between the
two sheets in a patterned plastic sheet that divides the liquid into individual shutters and keeps the
sheets at a precise distance from each other.
The critical step in the manufacturing process is the deposition of the active matrix components.
These have a relatively high failure rate, which renders those pixels on the screen "always on". If
there are enough broken pixels, the screen has to be discarded. The number of discarded panels
has a strong effect on the price of the resulting television sets, and the major downward fall in pricing
between 2006 and 2008 was due mostly to improved processes.
To produce a complete television, the shutter assembly is combined with control electronics and
backlight. The backlight for small sets can be provided by a single lamp using a diffuser or frosted
mirror to spread out the light, but for larger displays a single lamp is not bright enough and the rear
surface is instead covered with a number of separate lamps. Achieving even lighting over the front of
an entire display remains a challenge, and bright and dark spots are not uncommon.


A 19" Sony LCD TV

In a CRT the electron beam is produced by heating a metal filament, which "boils" electrons off its
surface. The electrons are then accelerated and focused in an electron gun, and aimed at the proper
location on the screen using electromagnets. The majority of the power budget of a CRT goes into
heating the filament, which is why the back of a CRT-based television is hot. Since the electrons are
easily deflected by gas molecules, the entire tube has to be held in vacuum. The atmospheric force
on the front face of the tube grows with the area, which requires ever-thicker glass. This limits
practical CRTs to sizes around 30 inches; (76 cm) displays up to 40 inches (102 cm) were produced
but weighed several hundred pounds, and televisions larger than this had to turn to other
technologies like rear-projection.
The lack of vacuum in an LCD television is one of its advantages; there is a small amount of vacuum
in sets using CCFL backlights, but this is arranged in cylinders which are naturally stronger than
large flat plates. Removing the need for heavy glass faces allows LCDs to be much lighter than other
technologies. For instance, the Sharp LC-42D65, a fairly typical 42-inch (106 cm) LCD television,
weighs 55 lbs (25 kg) including a stand,[1] while the late-model Sony KV-40XBR800, a 40" (102 cm)
4:3 CRT weighs a massive 304 lbs (138 kg) without a stand, almost six times the weight.[2]
LCD panels, like other flat panel displays, are also much thinner than CRTs. Since the CRT can only
bend the electron beam through a critical angle while still maintaining focus, the electron gun has to
be located some distance from the front face of the television. In early sets from the 1950s the angle
was often as small as 35 degrees off-axis, but improvements, especially computer assisted
convergence, allowed that to be dramatically improved and, late in their evolution, folded.
Nevertheless, even the best CRTs are much deeper than an LCD; the KV-40XBR800 is 26 inches
(66 cm) deep,[2] while the LC-42D65U is less than 4 inches (10 cm) thick[1] its stand is much deeper
than the screen in order to provide stability.
LCDs can, in theory, be built at any size, with production yields being the primary constraint. As
yields increased, common LCD screen sizes grew, from 14" (35 cm) to 30" (70 cm), to 42" (107 cm),
then 52" (132 cm), and 65" (165 cm) sets are now widely available. This allowed LCDs to compete
directly with most in-home projection television sets, and in comparison to those technologies direct-
view LCDs have a better image quality. Experimental and limited run sets are available with sizes
over 100 inches (254 cm).

LCDs are relatively inefficient in terms of power use per display size, because the vast majority of
light that is being produced at the back of the screen is blocked before it reaches the viewer. To start
with, the rear polarizer filters out over half of the original un-polarized light. Examining the image
above, you can see that a good portion of the screen area is covered by the cell structure around the
shutters, which removes another portion. After that, each sub-pixel's color filter removes the majority
of what is left to leave only the desired color. Finally, to control the color and luminance of a pixel as
a whole, some light is lost when passing the front polarizer in the on-state by the imperfect operation
of the shutters.
For these reasons the backlighting system has to be extremely powerful. In spite of using highly
efficient CCFLs, most sets use several hundred watts of power, more than would be required to light
an entire house with the same technology. As a result, LCD televisions using CCFLs end up with
overall power usage similar to a CRT of the same size. Using the same examples, the KV-
40XBR800 dissipates 245 W,[2] while the LC-42D65 dissipates 235 W.[1] Plasma displays are worse;
the best are on par with LCDs, but typical sets draw much more.[3]
Modern LCD sets have attempted to address the power use through a process known as "dynamic
lighting" (originally introduced for other reasons, see below). This system examines the image to find
areas that are darker, and reduces the backlighting in those areas. CCFLs are long cylinders that
run the length of the screen, so this change can only be used to control the brightness of the screen
as a whole, or at least wide horizontal bands of it. This makes the technique suitable only for
particular types of images, like the credits at the end of a movie. In 2009 some
manufacturers[4] made some TVs using HCFL (more power efficient than CCFL). Sets using
distributed LEDs behind the screen, with each LED lighting only a small number of pixels, typically a
16 by 16 patch, allow for better local dimming by dynamically adjusting the brightness of much
smaller areas, which is suitable for a much wider set of images.
Another ongoing area of research is to use materials that optically route light in order to re-use as
much of the signal as possible. One potential improvement is to use microprisms or dichromic
mirrors to split the light into R, G and B, instead of absorbing the unwanted colors in a filter. A
successful system would improve efficiency by three times. Another would be to direct the light that
would normally fall on opaque elements back into the transparent portion of the shutters.
Several newer technologies, OLED, FED and SED, have lower power use as one of their primary
advantages. All of these technologies directly produce light on a sub-pixel basis, and use only as
much power as that light level requires. Sony has demonstrated 36" FED units displaying very bright
images drawing only 14 W, less than 1/10 as much as a similarly sized LCD. OLEDs and SEDs are
similar to FEDs in power terms. The lower power requirements make these technologies particularly
interesting in low-power uses like laptop computers and mobile phones. These sorts of devices were
the market that originally bootstrapped LCD technology, due to its light weight and thinness.
Image quality[edit]

A traveler pocket-size LCD TV

Early LCD sets were widely derided for their poor overall image quality, most notably the ghosting on
fast-moving images, poor contrast ratio, and muddy colors. In spite of many predictions that other
technologies would always beat LCDs, massive investment in LCD production, manufacturing, and
electronic image processing has addressed many of these concerns.
Response time[edit]
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For 60 frames per second video, common in North America, each pixel is lit for 17 ms before it has
to be re-drawn (at 50 frames per second, it's 20 ms in Europe). Early LCDs had response times on
the order of hundreds of milliseconds, which made them useless for television. A combination of
improvements in materials technology since the 1970s greatly improved this, as did the active matrix
techniques. By 2000, LCD panels with response times around 20 ms were relatively common in
computer roles. This was still not fast enough for television use.
A major improvement, pioneered by NEC, led to the first practical LCD televisions. NEC noticed that
liquid crystals take some time to start moving into their new orientation, but stop rapidly. If the initial
movement could be accelerated, the overall performance would be increased. NEC's solution was to
boost the voltage during the "spin up period" when the capacitor is initially being charged, and then
dropping back to normal levels to fill it to the required voltage. A common method is to double the
voltage, but halve the pulse width, delivering the same total amount of power. Named "Overdrive" by
NEC, the technique is now widely used on almost all LCDs.
Another major improvement in response time was achieved by adding memory to hold the contents
of the display something that a television needs to do anyway, but was not originally required in
the computer monitor role that bootstrapped the LCD industry. In older displays the active matrix
capacitors were first drained, and then recharged to the new value with every refresh. But in most
cases, the vast majority of the screen's image does not change from frame to frame. By holding the
before and after values in computer memory, comparing them, and only resetting those sub-pixels
that actually changed, the amount of time spent charging and discharging the capacitors was
reduced. Moreover, the capacitors are not drained completely; instead, their existing charge level is
either increased or decreased to match the new value, which typically requires fewer charging
pulses. This change, which was isolated to the driver electronics and inexpensive to implement,
improved response times by about two times.
Together, along with continued improvements in the liquid crystals themselves, and by increasing
refresh rates from 60 Hz to 120 and 240 Hz, response times fell from 20 ms in 2000 to about 2 ms in
the best modern displays. But even this is not really fast enough because the pixel will still be
switching while the frame is being displayed. Conventional CRTs are well under 1 ms, and plasma
and OLED displays boast times on the order of 0.001 ms.
One way to further improve the effective refresh rate is to use "super-sampling", and it is becoming
increasingly common on high-end sets. Since the blurring of the motion occurs during the transition
from one state to another, this can be reduced by doubling the refresh rate of the LCD panel, and
building intermediate frames using various motion compensation techniques. This smooths out the
transitions, and means the backlighting is turned on only when the transitions are settled. A number
of high-end sets offer 120 Hz (in North America) or 100 Hz (in Europe) refresh rates using this
technique. Another solution is to only turn the backlighting on once the shutter has fully switched. In
order to ensure that the display does not flicker, these systems fire the backlighting several times per
refresh, in a fashion similar to movie projection where the shutter opens and closes several times
per frame.
Contrast ratio[edit]
Even in a fully switched-off state, liquid crystals allow some light to leak through the shutters. This
limits their contrast ratios to about 1600:1 on the best modern sets, when measured using the ANSI
measurement (ANSI IT7.215-1992). Manufacturers often quote the "Full On/Off" contrast ratio
instead, which is about 25% greater for any given set.[5]
This lack of contrast is most noticeable in darker scenes. To display a color close to black, the LCD
shutters have to be turned to almost full opacity, limiting the number of discrete colors they can
display. This leads to "posterizing" effects and bands of discrete colors that become visible in
shadows, which is why many reviews of LCD TVs mention the "shadow detail".[6] In comparison, the
highest-end LED TVs offer regular contrast ratios of 5,000,000:1.
Since the total amount of light reaching the viewer is a combination of the backlighting and
shuttering, modern sets can use "dynamic backlighting" or local dimming to improve the contrast
ratio and shadow detail. If a particular area of the screen is dark, a conventional set will have to set
its shutters close to opaque to cut down the light. However, if the backlighting is reduced by half in
that area, the shuttering can be reduced by half, and the number of available shuttering levels in the
sub-pixels doubles. This is the main reason high-end sets offer dynamic lighting (as opposed to
power savings, mentioned earlier), allowing the contrast ratio across the screen to be dramatically
improved. While the LCD shutters are capable of producing about 1000:1 contrast ratio, by adding
30 levels of dynamic backlighting this is improved to 30,000:1.
However, the area of the screen that can be dynamically adjusted is a function of the backlighting
source. CCFLs are thin tubes that light up many rows (or columns) across the entire screen at once,
and that light is spread out with diffusers. The CCFL must be driven with enough power to light the
brightest area of the portion of the image in front of it, so if the image is light on one side and dark on
the other, this technique cannot be used successfully. Displays backlit by full arrays of LEDs have an
advantage, because each LED lights only a small patch of the screen. This allows the dynamic
backlighting to be used on a much wider variety of images. Edge-lit displays do not enjoy this
advantage. These displays have LEDs only along the edges and use a light guide plate covered with
thousands of convex bumps that reflect light from the side-firing LEDs out through the LCD matrix
and filters. LEDs on edge-lit displays can be dimmed only globally, not individually. For cost reasons,
most of LCD TVs have edge-lit backlighting.
The massive on-paper boost this method provides is the reason many sets now place the "dynamic
contrast ratio" in their specifications sheets. There is widespread debate in the audio-visual world as
to whether or not dynamic contrast ratios are real, or simply marketing speak.[7][8] Reviewers
commonly note that even the best LCDs cannot match the contrast ratios or deep blacks of plasma
displays, in spite of being rated, on paper, as having much higher ratios. However, since 2014 there
are no major manufacturers of plasma displays left. Contrast leaders are now displays based on
Color gamut[edit]
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Color on an LCD television is produced by filtering down a white source and then selectively
shuttering the three primary colors relative to each other. The accuracy and quality of the resulting
colors are thus dependent on the backlighting source and its ability to evenly produce white light.
The CCFLs used in early LCD televisions were not particularly white, and tended to be strongest in
greens. Modern backlighting has improved this, and sets commonly quote a color space covering
about 75% of the NTSC 1953 color gamut. Using white LEDs as the backlight improves this further.
In September 2009 Nanoco, a UK company, announced that it had signed a joint development
agreement with a major Japanese electronics company under which it will design and
develop quantum dots (QD) for use in LED backlights in LCD televisions.[9] Quantum dots are valued
for displays, because they emit light in very specific Gaussian distributions.[10] This can result in a
display that more accurately renders the colors that the human eye can perceive. To generate white
light best suited as an LCD backlight, parts of the light of a blue-emitting LED are transformed by
quantum dots into small-bandwidth green and red light such that the combined white light allows for
a nearly ideal color gamut generated by the color filters of the LCD panel. In addition, efficiency is
improved, as intermediate colors (wavelengths) are not present anymore and don't have to be
filtered out by the RGB color filters of the LCD screen. US company QD Vision worked with Sony to
launch LCD TVs using this technique under the marketing label Triluminos in 2013.
At the Consumer Electronics Show 2015, Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, the Chinese TCL
Corporation and Sony showed QD-enhanced LED-backlighting of LCD TVs.[11] [12]


An LCD TV hanging on a wall in the Taipei World Trade Center during the Computex Taipei show in 2008.

Early efforts[edit]
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Passive matrix LCDs first became common in the 1980s for various portable computer roles. At the
time they competed with plasma displays in the same market space. The LCDs had very slow
refresh rates that blurred the screen even with scrolling text, but their light weight and low cost were
major benefits. Screens using reflective LCDs required no internal light source, making them
particularly well suited to laptop computers.
Refresh rates of early devices were too slow to be useful for television. Portable televisions were a
target application for LCDs. LCDs consumed far less battery power then even the miniature tubes
used in portable televisions of the era. The earliest commercially made LCD TV was the Casio TV-
10 made in 1983.[13] Resolutions were limited to standard definition, although a number of
technologies were pushing displays towards the limits of that standard; Super VHS offered improved
color saturation, and DVDs added higher resolutions as well. Even with these advances, screen
sizes over 30" were rare as these formats would start to appear blocky at normal seating distances
when viewed on larger screens. Projection systems were generally limited to situations where the
image had to be viewed by a larger audience.
Nevertheless, some experimentation with LCD televisions took place during this period. In 1988,
Sharp Corporation introduced the first commercial LCD television, a 14" model with active matrix
addressing using thin-film transistors (TFT). These were offered primarily as boutique items for
discerning customers, and were not aimed at the general market. At the same time, plasma displays
could easily offer the performance needed to make a high quality display, but suffered from low
brightness and very high power consumption. However, a series of advances led to plasma displays
outpacing LCDs in performance improvements, starting with Fujitsu's improved construction
techniques in 1979, Hitachi's improved phosphors in 1984, and AT&T's elimination of the black
areas between the sub-pixels in the mid-1980s. By the late 1980s, plasma displays were far in
advance of LCDs.

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It was the slow standardization of high definition television that first produced a market for new
television technologies. In particular, the wider 16:9 aspect ratio of the new material was difficult to
build using CRTs; ideally a CRT should be perfectly circular in order to best contain its internal
vacuum, and as the aspect ratio becomes more rectangular it becomes more difficult to make the
tubes. At the same time, the much higher resolutions these new formats offered were lost at smaller
screen sizes, so CRTs faced the twin problems of becoming larger and more rectangular at the
same time. LCDs of the era were still not able to cope with fast-moving images, especially at higher
resolutions, and from the mid-1990s the plasma display was the only real offering in the high
resolution space.
Through the halting introduction of HDTV in the mid-1990s into the early 2000s, plasma displays
were the primary high-definition display technology. However, their high cost, both manufacturing
and on the street, meant that older technologies like CRTs maintained a footprint in spite of their
disadvantages. LCD, however, was widely considered to be unable to scale into the same space,
and it was widely believed that the move to high-definition would push it from the market entirely.
This situation changed rapidly. Contrary to early optimism, plasma displays never saw the
massive economies of scale that were expected, and remained expensive. Meanwhile, LCD
technologies like Overdrive started to address their ability to work at television speeds. Initially
produced at smaller sizes, fitting into the low-end space that plasmas could not fill, LCDs started to
experience the economies of scale that plasmas failed to achieve. By 2004, 32" models were widely
available, 42" sets were becoming common, and much larger prototypes were being demonstrated.

Market takeover[edit]
Although plasmas continued to hold an arguable picture quality edge over LCDs, and even a price
advantage for sets at the critical 42" size and larger, LCD prices started falling rapidly in 2006 while
their screen sizes were increasing at a similarly rapid rate. By late 2006, several vendors were
offering 42" LCDs, albeit at a price premium, encroaching on plasma's only stronghold. More
critically, LCDs offer higher resolutions and true 1080p support, while plasmas were stuck at 720p,
which made up for the price difference.[14]
Predictions that prices for LCDs would drop rapidly through 2007 led to a "wait and see" attitude in
the market, and sales of all large-screen televisions stagnated while customers watched to see if this
would happen.[14] Plasmas and LCDs reached price parity in 2007, at which point the LCD's higher
resolution was a winning point for many sales.[14] By late 2007, it was clear that LCDs were going to
outsell plasmas during the critical Christmas sales season.[15][16] This was in spite of the fact that
plasmas continued to hold an image quality advantage, but as the president of Chunghwa Picture
Tubes noted after shutting down their plasma production line, "Globally, so many companies, so
many investments, so many people have been working in this area, on this product. So they can
improve so quickly."[14]
When the sales figures for the 2007 Christmas season were finally tallied, pundits were surprised to
find that LCDs had not only outsold plasma, but also outsold CRTs during the same period.[17] This
evolution drove competing large-screen systems from the market almost overnight. Plasma had
overtaken rear-projection systems in 2005.[18] The same was true for CRTs, which lasted only a few
months longer; Sony ended sales of their famous Trinitron in most markets in 2007, and shut down
the final plant in March 2008.[19] The February 2009 announcement that Pioneer Electronics was
ending production of the plasma screens was widely considered the tipping point in that technology's
history as well.[20]
LCD's dominance in the television market accelerated rapidly.[14] It was the only technology that
could scale both up and down in size, covering both the high-end market for large screens in the 40
to 50" class, as well as customers looking to replace their existing smaller CRT sets in the 14 to 30"
range. Building across these wide scales quickly pushed the prices down across the board.[17]
In 2008, LCD TV shipments were up 33 percent year-on-year compared to 2007 to 105 million
units.[21] In 2009, LCD TV shipments raised to 146 million units (69% from the total of 211 million TV
shipments).[22] In 2010, LCD TV shipments reached 187.9 million units (from an estimated total of
247 million TV shipments).[23][24]
Current sixth-generation panels by major manufacturers such as Sony, Sharp Corporation, LG
Display, Panasonic and Samsung have announced larger sized models:

In October 2004, Sharp announced the successful manufacture of a 65" panel.

In March 2005, Samsung announced an 82" LCD panel.[25]
In August 2006, LG Display Consumer Electronics announced a 100" LCD television[26]
In January 2007, Sharp displayed a 108" LCD panel under the AQUOS brand name at CES in
Las Vegas.[27]
Recent research[edit]
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Some manufacturers are also experimenting with extending color reproduction of LCD televisions.
Although current LCD panels are able to deliver all sRGB colors using an appropriate combination of
backlight's spectrum and optical filters, manufacturers want to display even more colors. One of the
approaches is to use a fourth, or even fifth and sixth color in the optical color filter array. Another
approach is to use two sets of suitably narrowband backlights (e.g. LEDs), with slightly differing
colors, in combination with broadband optical filters in the panel, and alternating backlights each
consecutive frame. Fully using the extended color gamut will naturally require an appropriately
captured material and some modifications to the distribution channel. Otherwise, the only use of the
extra colors would be to let the looker boost the color saturation of the TV picture beyond what was
intended by the producer, but avoiding the otherwise unavoidable loss of detail ("burnout") in
saturated areas.

Competing systems[edit]
In spite of LCD's current dominance of the television field, there are several other technologies being
developed that address its shortcomings. Whereas LCDs produce an image by selectively blocking a
backlight OLED, FED and SED all produce light directly on the front face of the display. In
comparison to LCDs, all of these technologies offer better viewing angles, much higher brightness
and contrast ratio (as much as 5,000,000:1), and better color saturation and accuracy, and use less
power. In theory, they are less complex and less expensive to build.
Actually manufacturing these screens has proved more difficult than originally imagined. Sony
abandoned their FED project in March 2009,[28] but continue work on their OLED sets. Canon
continues development of their SED technology, but announced that they will not attempt to
introduce sets to market for the foreseeable future.[29]
Samsung has been displaying OLED sets at 14.1, 31 and 40 inch sizes for some time, and at
the SID 2009 trade show in San Antonio they announced that the 14.1 and 31 inch sets are
"production ready".[30]

Environmental effects[edit]
See also: Electronic waste
The production of LCD screens uses nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) as an etching fluid during the
production of the thin-film components. NF3 is a potent greenhouse gas, and its relatively long half-
life may make it a potentially harmful contributor to global warming. A report in Geophysical
Research Letters suggested that its effects were theoretically much greater than better-known
sources of greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide. As NF3 was not in widespread use at the time, it
was not made part of the Kyoto Protocols and has been deemed "the missing greenhouse gas".[31]
Critics of the report point out that it assumes that all of the NF3 produced would be released to the
atmosphere. In reality, the vast majority of NF3 is broken down during the cleaning processes; two
earlier studies found that only 2 to 3% of the gas escapes destruction after its use.[32] Furthermore,
the report failed to compare NF3's effects with what it replaced, perfluorocarbon, another powerful
greenhouse gas, of which anywhere from 30 to 70% escapes to the atmosphere in typical use.[32]

LED LCD vs. plasma vs.

LED LCD vs. plasma vs. LCD: The ultimate tech
choice. Debating on which HDTV technology to buy?
Debate no longer. OK, not too much longer.

NOVEMBER 21, 2013 8:45 PM PST

Updated November 2013!

In television technology trifecta of LED LCD, plasma, and LCD,

which comes out on top? The subject of countless debates and
diatribes, the better question is: which works best? Or more
precisely, which works best for you?

When you cut through the hype and the fanboys, each tech has
different benefits and costs. So to help you figure out which TV is
right for your house, let's take a look at each one.

First, a BIG disclaimer: any article of this type is, by necessity, going
to contain a lot of generalizations. In most of the categories below,
there are likely one or two exceptions to each rule. It's great to find
an outlier, but that's just what it is, an outlier. The "average" product
featuring these technologies is going to perform as listed.

Second, some terminology.

Plasma TVs, made by Panasonic, Samsung, and LG, range in size

from 42 inches to roughly 65 inches. There are some larger models
(notably Panasonic's 150-inch), but for most people, they max out at
65 inches. Most are "600 Hz" which isn't quite the same as 120 Hz
or 240 Hz LCDs (more on them in a moment). You can read more
about it in What is 600 Hz?
LCD TVs range in size from a couple of inches, to 90 inches, and
everywhere in-between. They're made by everybody. All "LED TVs"
are actually LCD TVs, they just use LEDs as their light source,
instead of the traditional CCFLs. There are very few CCFL (non-
LED) LCDs on the market anymore. Since you might find a few off-
brands that still use CCFLs (or you own a CCFL LCD and want to
compare), we'll include them here separately. One of the most
common features of higher-end LCDs is 120 and 240 Hz refresh
rates which helps reduce the blurring of motion common with LCDs.
You can read more about that problem and the solution in What is
Refresh Rate?

You might ask yourself, at this point, why only three companies for
plasma? When electronics companies started building their
manufacturing plants for TVs, they faced a choice: make big
"cheap" flat panels that can't go much below 42-inches (plasma), or
build a more expensive factory that can make a wide variety of
sizes, even though the bigger sizes will be more expensive (LCD).
As production has increased, the larger LCD sizes have become
more price competitive, so that distinction has disappeared. As
such, you don't see a lot of companies investing in new plasma TV
manufacturing. Not when an LCD factory can make everything from
cell phone screens to 90-inch HDTVs (an over simplification, but
you get the point).

If you're not sure what size TV you should be getting, check

out How big a TV should I buy?

If you're interested in how LCD and plasma match up against

OLED, check out LED LCD vs. OLED vs. plasma.

Watch this: Sony's new 4K set is its slimmest LED TV to date

Light output (brightness)
Winner: LED LCD
Loser: Plasma
Runner-Up: CCFL LCD

Without question, LED LCDs are the brightest TVs you can buy.
Some models are capable of well over 100 footlamberts. To put that
in perspective, in a movie theater you're lucky if you get 5. CCFL
LCDs are a close second.

Plasmas just aren't that bright. It's all relative, though, as plasmas
are still likely way brighter than old-school CRT tube TVs. So
plasmas aren't "dim," but they aren't nearly as bright as LCDs.

The question is, do you need that light output? In a dark room, 100
footlamberts will be searingly bright, and could cause eye fatigue. In
a bright room (daytime/sunlight) a plasma might be hard to see.

Another aspect to consider is any antireflective or antiglare material

on each screen. A plasma with a really good antireflective coating
may be better to watch with room lighting than a glossy-screen LCD
with no such coating (and vice versa).

Check out LED LCD backlights explained for more info on why
LCDs are so bright.

Black level
Winner: Plasma
Runner-up: LED LCD

This is getting a lot closer, but plasmas still offer the best black
levels. Yes, LED LCDs can sometimes have an absolute black (by
turning off their LEDs), but when you're watching a movie, plasmas
are going to seem darker. This relates to contrast ratio...
Contrast ratio
Winner: Plasma
Runner-up: LED LCD

Contrast ratio, or the ratio between the darkest part of the image
and the brightest, is one of the most important factors in overall
picture quality. A display with a high contrast ratio is going to seem
more realistic, and have more virtual "depth." I highly recommend
reading this article: Contrast ratio (or how every TV manufacturer
lies to you).

There are a few exceptions. The Samsung UN-85S9, for example,

has an advanced local dimming backlight, which gives it a plasma-
like contrast ratio... for a price. A big price. A $40,000 price (that's
not a typo). A few other LCD have very good local dimming, but
most still don't have the visual punch of the best plasmas. One good
LED LCD doesn't make them all good, nor does it herald a new
generation of better LED LCDs. The Samsung doesn't do anything
new. It's a local dimming LED LCD. We've actually seen fewer and
fewer of this types of displays for the reason the Samsung makes
quite obvious: price (though there are cheaper full array local
dimming LCDs, they're just rare). Local dimming LED LCDs are
more expensive than edge-lit models (and much more expensive
than plasmas, at the same size), and these days, expensive TVs
aren't big sellers.

Do a few other local dimming models come close to the better

plasmas (or exceed the lesser ones)? Yes, but again these are the
exceptions, not the rule. Check out LED LCD backlights
explained for more info.

There are some technologies coming down the pike that may offer
even better contrast ratios. One of the most exciting is OLED. I'm
really excited about OLED. It promises to be the best of all words:
the best picture quality going, ultra-efficient, and incredibly thin. The
first two models, anLG and a Samsung, are impressive. To learn
more about this upcoming TV technology, check out What is OLED
TV? and OLED: What we know.

So, on average, plasmas have a better contrast ratio (with notable

exception noted). If you're curious why they don't look like it when
you see them in a store, check out Why do plasma TVs look
washed out in the store?

Winner: LED LCD
Loser: Plasma
Runner-up: LCD

Right now the only Ultra HD "4K" TVs on the market are LED LCDs.
It's unlikely we'll see 4K plasma, now that Panasonic is pulling out of
the plasma business. Keep in mind that resolution is only one
aspect of a TV's performance. I did a recent comparison of a 50-
inch 720p TV and a 50-inch 4K TV and found the 720 looked better
(and in some cases, more detailed).

Motion blur
Winner: Plasma
Loser: LED LCD and LCD

Motion blur is when an object in motion on-screen (or when the

entire image pans/moves) blurs. Some of this is in the camera when
the scene was recorded, but most is done by the TV. Not everyone
notices it, not everyone is bothered by it, but it's there,
predominantly with LED and regular LCDs. The 120 Hz and 240 Hz
higher refresh rates were developed to minimize motion blur. To
some degree this works, but often the processing to create this
cause an ultra-smooth image, which is called the "Soap Opera
Effect." SOE, REALLY bothers some people (myself included).
Some people like it.
Refresh rate
Winner: Plasma, LED LCD, LCD

It's important to understand that the only reason LCDs have higher
refresh rates is to combat motion blur. Since plasmas don't have an
issue with motion blur (not nearly to the same extent, anyway), they
don't need higher refresh rates. In reality, the way LCDs and
plasmas create images are so different that you can't compare th
refresh rate of one with the other. Check out What is 600
Hz? (plasma) andWhat is refresh rate? (LCD) for more info.

Viewing angle
Winner: Plasma
Runner-up: IPS LCD (see text)

How big is your room? Do you or loved ones sit off to the side,
viewing the TV at an angle? If so, it's important to note that LCDs of
both flavors lose picture quality when viewed "off axis," as in not
directly in front of the screen.

Small room, small couch, mother-in-law Barcalounger off to the

side? Don't worry about it.

Somewhere in the middle are in-plane switching LCDs, which offer

a better viewing angle at the expense of overall contrast ratio and
black level. Check out my article Myths, Marketing, and
Misdirection for more info.

Energy consumption
Winner: LED LCD
Loser: Plasma
Runner-up: CCFL LCD

No question, LED LCDs have the lowest energy consumption,

especially when you turn down the backlight. Prius drivers, this is
the TV for you. CCFL LCDs are a close second, with the same

Plasmas, especially when you turn up the contrast control (which

you need to for them to look their best), just aren't as energy
efficient. They are, however, far better than they were a few years

If you want to go green, get an LED LCD. As I mentioned in

the Myths article, though, it won't save you money. Because LED
LCDs are more expensive than other TVs, it will take you years to
make up that difference in energy savings (if ever). We're talking a
few dollars difference in a year here. Check out What you need to
know about power consumption.

Related stories
Why all HDMI cables are the same
LED LCD vs. OLED vs. plasma
4K HDMI cables (are nonsense)
1080i and 1080p are the same resolution
When HD isn't HD
Active 3D vs. passive 3D: What's better?
How big a TV should I buy?
Audiophile Odyssey: Behind the Scenes at B&W, Meridian, and
Abbey Road Studios
List of top 4k TV's of 2015
Winner: CCFL LCD
Loser: LED LCD
Runner-up: Plasma
Because they tend to be at the lower-end of a company's TV
offerings, or off-brands, CCFL LCDs are the cheapest TVs you can

The cheapest "doorbuster" TVs will almost always be CCFL TVs.

Plasmas tend to have the best size/price ratio. In some cases,
plasmas can cost half as much on a per-screen-inch basis than big


Multiple studies by a variety of sources have found flat panel TVs to

be extremely reliable. Internet forums are always populated by the
angry, so invariably you're going to read more "well mine broke!"
posts than "I've had mine for 5 years and it's great." Check out How
long do TVs last? for more info.


Gotcha! All TVs can burn in. It's unlikely you'll abuse them enough
for this to happen (think airport arrival/departure displays). Both
LCDs and Plasmas can have image persistence, which has the
outward appearance of burn-in, but isn't permanent. Plasmas are
more likely to exhibit it. For more on this, check out my article Is
plasma burn-in a problem?

The short version? You're going to notice image persistence long

before it will become a problem.

Winner: Plasma
Uniformity, or a consistent brightness to the image, doesn't bother
me a lot. It bugs David a bunch, though. Check out my article Is
LCD and LED LCD HDTV uniformity a problem?

Plasma can have issues in this regard as well, though they're far
less frequent or noticeable. Edge-lit LED LCDs are the worst
offenders, though cheap CCFL LCDs and backlit LED LCDs have
their own issues. In many cases, the uniformity can vary per
sample. So your TV might be fine, but your brother-in-law hates the
one he bought of the same model. I linked to it before, but LED LCD
backlights explainedit's worth checking out for more on this too.

And the winner is...

If you want to count wins and losses from the list above, have at it.
The thing is, these items don't have equal weight. That's the point.
For one person, absolute light output is absolute, for another, black
level is above all else. These two performance aspects are, for now,
mutually exclusive.

So don't listen to those who say, "well, its brightest, it's best" or
"LCD's black level is terrible, so they blow." Brighter is not
necessarily better, and black level isn't everything. Reading through
this list I'm positive you've mentally weighted certain factors above
others, even if you didn't notice it at first. Go with your gut. If you
watch a lot of TV during the day, or have a room with lots of
windows, LED LCD is probably best. If you watch at night, and want
the TV to disappear into the background, plasma is probably best.

Want to know the best part? The dirty little secret of the TV world? If
you're buying a name-brand TV, its picture quality is going to be
really, really good. You are seriously picking from good, gooder, and
goodly goodest here. Compared with flat panel TVs from just a few
years ago, new HDTVs are thinner, brighter, bigger, better-
performing, and cheaper than ever before. So have at it. Your new
TV is going to be awesome for years to come.
The Difference Between an LCD TV and a
Plasma TV

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Home Theater
ey Concepts


uides & Tutorials

stalling & Upgrading

ps & Tricks
by Robert Silva
Updated July 22, 2017

UPDATE: In 2015, Plasma TV was discontinued in the consumer market. This article is
being retained for archive purposes.

Plasma and LCD TV: The Same, But Different

Outward appearances are definitely deceiving when it comes to LCD and Plasma TVs.

Plasma and LCD TVs are flat and thin, and may also incorporate many of the same
features. Both types can be wall mounted and may offer the internet and local network
streaming, both offer up the same types of physical connectivity options, and, of course,
both allow you to watch TV programs, movies, and other content in a variety of screen
sizes and resolutions.

However, how they produce and display those images is actually quite different.

Plasma TV Overview

Plasma television technology is based loosely on the fluorescent light bulb. The display
itself consists of cells. Within each cell two glass panels are separated by a narrow gap
in that includes an insulating layer, address electrode, and display electrode, in which
neon-xenon gas is injected and sealed in plasma form during the manufacturing

When a Plasma TV is in use, the gas is electrically charged at specific intervals. The
charged gas then strikes red, green, and blue phosphors, thus creating an image on the
Plasma TV screen. Each group of red, green, and blue phosphors is called a pixel
(picture element - the individual red, green, and blue phosphors are referred to as sub-

Due to the way that Plasma technology works, it can be made very thin. However, even
though need for the bulky picture tube and electron beam scanning of those older CRT
TV is no longer required, Plasma TVs still employ the burning of phosphors to generate
an image.

Thus, Plasma TVs still suffer from some of the drawbacks of traditional CRT TVs, such
as heat generation and possible screen-burn of static images.

LCD TV Overview

LCD TVs, on the other hand, use a different technology. LCD panels are made of two
layers of transparent material, which are polarized, and are "glued" together.

One of the layers is coated with a special polymer that holds the individual liquid
crystals. Current is then passed through individual crystals, which allow the crystals to
pass or block light to create images.

LCD crystals do not produce their own light, so an external light source, such as
fluorescent (CCFL/HCFL) or LEDs are needed for the image created by the LCD to
become visible to the viewer. Currently (2014 going forward) almost all LCD TVs use
LED light sources instead of a fluorescent light source.

Unlike standard CRT and Plasma TV, since there are no phosphors that light up, less
power is needed for operation and the light source in an LCD TV generates less heat
than a Plasma or CRT TV. Also, because of the nature of LCD technology, there is no
radiation emitted from the screen itself.

The ADVANTAGES of Plasma over LCD include:

Better contrast ratio and ability to render deeper blacks.

Better color accuracy and saturation.
Better motion tracking (little or no motion lag in fast moving images due to the
use of Sub Field Drive Technology.
Wider side-to-side viewing angle.
The DISADVANTAGES of Plasma vs LCD Include:

Plasma TVs are not as bright as most LCD TVs. Plasma TVs perform better in a
dimly lit or darkened room.

Screen surface is more reflective than most LCD TVs. More susceptible to glare -
screen surface reflects ambient light sources.
Plasma TVs are more susceptible to burn-in of static images. However, this
problem has diminished greatly in recent years as a result of the incorporation
"pixel orbiting" and related technologies.
Plasma TVs generate more heat and use more energy than LCD TVs, due to the
need to light of phosphors to create the images.
Does not perform as well at higher altitudes.
Potentially shorter display life span - this used to be the case. Early Plasmas had
30,000 hours or 8 hrs of viewing a day for 9 years, which was less than LCD.
However, screen life span has now improved and 60,000-hour life span rating is
now common, with some sets rated as high as 100,000 hours, due to technology

ADVANTAGES LCD over Plasma TV include:

No burn-in of static images.

Cooler running temperature.
No high altitude use issues.
Increased image brightness over Plasma, which makes LCD TVs better for
viewing in brightly lit rooms.
Screen surface on most LCD TVs is less reflective than Plasma TV screen
surfaces, making it less susceptible to screen glare.
Lighter weight (when comparing same screen sizes) than Plasma counterparts.
Longer display life used to be a factor, but now
For 3D, with LCD you have a choice between units that use Active Shutter and
Passive Glasses, whereas 3D Plasma TVs only utilize the Active Shutter Glasses

DISADVANTAGES of LCD vs Plasma televisions include:

Lower real contrast ratio, not as good rendering deep blacks, although the
increasing incorporation of LED backlighting has narrowed this gap.
Not as good at tracking motion (fast moving objects may exhibit lag artifacts) -
However, this is improving with the recent implementation of 120Hz screen
refresh rates and 240Hz processing in most LCD sets, but that can result in the
"Soap Opera Effect", in which film-based content sources look more like
videotape that film.
Narrower effective side-to-side viewing angle than Plasma. On LCD TVs, it is
common to notice color fading or color shifting as you move your viewing position
further to either side of the center point.
Although LCD TVs do not suffer from burn-in susceptibility, it is possible that
individual pixels on LCD televisions can burn out, causing small, visible, black or
white dots to appear on the screen. Individual pixels cannot be repaired, the
whole screen would need to be replaced at that point if the individual pixel
burnout becomes annoying to you.
LCD TV is typically more expensive than equivalent-sized (and equivalent
featured) Plasma TV, although that is no longer a factor, now that Plasma TVs
have been discontinued.

The 4K Factor

One additional thing to point out with regards to the difference between LCD and
Plasma TVs, is that when 4K Ultra HD TVs were introduced, TV manufacturers made
the choice to only make 4K resolution available on LCD TVs, using LED back and edge-
lighting, and, in the case of LG, also incorporating 4K into TVs using OLED technology.

Although it is technologically possible to manufacture and incorporate 4K resolution

display capability into a Plasma TV, it is more expensive to do so than on an LCD TV
platform, and, with the sales of Plasma TVs continuing to decline over the years,
Plasma TV made a business decision not to bring consumer-based 4K Ultra HD Plasma
TVs to market. The only 4K Ultra HD Plasma TVs that were/are manufactured are
strictly for commercial application use.

An LED TV uses less power, provides a brighter display with better

contrast, a thinner panel, and lesser heat dissipation than a
conventional LCD TV. This is because an LED TV uses light-emitting
diodes for backlighting as opposed to the CCFLs of conventional LCD
TVs. The display of an LED TV is not an LED display, so a more
technically correct name for it would be "LED-backlit LCD television."

Comparison chart
Differences Similarities
LCD TV versus LED TV comparison chart


urrent rating is 3.24/5 urrent rating is 3.94/5

(849 ratings) (803 ratings)

Thickness Minimum 1 inch LED edge backlit LCD TVs are thinner
than CCFL LCD TVs. Often less than 1

Power Requires less power to operate LED-lit LCD TVs consume less power
consumption when compared to plasma, but more around 70% compared to plasma TVs.
than OLED TVs

Screen size 13 - 57 inches Up to 90 inches

Burn-in Not an issue Burn-in is very rare

Cost Much cheaper $100 (small size and very low end) -

Life span 50,000 - 100, 000 hours Around 100,000 hours

Viewing angle Up to 165, Picture suffers from the The brightness and color on LCD TVs
side shift noticeably over the screen and
depending on viewing angle

Mechanism Backlight covered by a layer of Light emitting diodes

liquid crystals
LCD TV versus LED TV comparison chart

Backlight Yes Yes

Contents: LCD TV vs LED TV

1 Picture Quality
o 1.1 Color
o 1.2 Dynamic contrast
2 Slim frame
3 Power Consumption
4 Price
5 Types
o 5.1 Types of LED TVs
o 5.2 Types of LCD TVs
6 References

Picture Quality
Even though some say the picture quality of an LED TV is better, there is no
straight answer for which has better picture quality since both TVs use the same
kind of screen. For instance, a higher-end LCD TV can have a better quality
than a low-end LED TV, but if you look at high-end models of either TV, the
picture quality will be comparable.

An LED TV offers more colors, especially ones that use RGB-LED backlighting.

Dynamic contrast
RGB Dynamic LEDs show truer blacks and whites and thus get higher dynamic
contrast ratio (which is desirable in a TV), at the cost of less detail in small bright
objects on a dark background (such as star fields)

Slim frame
Edge-LED backlighting technique allows an LCD TV to be extremely thin. LED
televisions that are only 1 inch thick are also available.

Power Consumption
LED TVs use energy-efficient light emitting diodes (LED) for backlighting. These
consume less power than cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL) used in
traditional LCD televisions. Power savings are typically 20-30%.

On average, LED TVs are priced higher than traditional LCD TVs that use
CCFLs for backlighting.
The Amazon's Best Sellers' list for LCD TVs has a wide range of TVs ranging
starting from $100 all the way up to a few thousand.
LED TVs are the most popular and also come in a wide range of prices from
$120 and up, as seen on the Amazon's Best Sellers' list for LED TVs.

Types of LED TVs
There are 3 types of LED TVs based on their backlighting methods:

Edge-LEDs (the most common) are positioned around the rim of the screen and
use a special diffusion panel to spread the light evenly behind the screen.
Dynamic RGB LEDs: This backlighting technique allows specific areas on the
screen to be dimmed.
Full-array LEDs where LEDs are arranged behind the screen as a set, but are
incapable of dimming or brightening individually.

Types of LCD TVs

There are 3 kinds of LCD TVs:

Flat Screen LCDs, about an inch or two thick are more expensive, but also
more popular because of their sleek look and the flexible options of standing on
a surface or mounting on a wall.
Front projection LCDs or projectors, which project an image onto the front of
the screen. The TV itself is just a box installed anywhere in a room, which
projects the image onto a flat screen hung on the wall as large as 300 inches.
Rear projection LCDs, where the image is sent from the rear of the TV to the
screen in front. Rear projection LCDs are wide, heavy and only available in large
sizes (60" and up).

LCDs (liquid crystal displays)

by Chris Woodford. Last updated: May 4, 2017.

T elevisions used to be hot, heavy, power-hungry beasts that sat in the

corner of your living room. Not any more! Now they're slim enough to hang on
the wall and they use a fraction as much energy as they used to. Like
laptop computers, most new televisions have flat screens with LCDs (liquid-
crystal displays)the same technology we've been using for years in things
like calculators,cellphones, and digital watches. What are they and how do
they work? Let's take a closer look!
Photo: Small LCDs like this one have been widely used in calculators and digital watches since the 1970s, but
they were relatively expensive in those days and produced only black-and-white (actually, dark-blueish and
white) images. During the 1980s and 1990s, manufacturers figured out how to make larger color screens at
relatively affordable prices. That was when the market for LCD TVs and color laptop computers really took off.

How does a television screen make its picture?

Photo: This iPod screen is another example of LCD technology. Its pixels are colored black and they're either
on or off, so the display is black-and-white. In an LCD TV screen, much smaller pixels colored red, blue, or
green make a brightly colored moving picture.
For many people, the most attractive thing about LCD TVs is not the way they
make a picture but their flat, compact screen. Unlike an old-style TV, an LCD
screen is flat enough to hang on your wall. That's because it generates its
picture in an entirely different way.

You probably know that an old-style cathode-ray tube (CRT) television makes
a picture using three electron guns. Think of them as three very fast, very
precise paintbrushes that dance back and forth, painting a moving image on
the back of the screen that you can watch when you sit in front of it.

Flatscreen LCD and plasma screens work in a completely different way. If you
sit up close to a flatscreen TV, you'll notice that the picture is made from
millions of tiny blocks called pixels (picture elements). Each one of these is
effectively a separate red, blue, or green light that can be switched on or off
very rapidly to make the moving color picture. The pixels are controlled in
completely different ways in plasma and LCD screens. In a plasma screen,
each pixel is a tiny fluorescent lamp switched on or off electronically. In an
LCD television, the pixels are switched on or off electronically using liquid
crystals to rotate polarized light. That's not as complex as it sounds! To
understand what's going on, first we need to understand what liquid crystals
are; then we need to look more closely at light and how it travels.

What are liquid crystals?

Photo: Liquid crystals dried and viewed through polarized light. You can see they have a much more regular
structure than an ordinary liquid. Photo from research by David Weitz courtesy of NASA Marshall Space Flight
Center (NASA-MSFC).

We're used to the idea that a given substance can be in one of three states:
solid, liquid, or gaswe call them states of matterand up until the late 19th
century, scientists thought that was the end of the story. Then, in 1888, an
Austrian chemist named Friedrich Reinitzer (18571927) discovered liquid
crystals, which are another state entirely, somewhere in between liquids and
solids. Liquid crystals might have lingered in obscurity but for the fact that they
turned out to have some very useful properties.

Solids are frozen lumps of matter that stay put all by themselves, often with
their atoms packed in a neat, regular arrangement called a crystal (or
crystalline lattice). Liquids lack the order of solids and, though they stay put if
you keep them in a container, they flow relatively easily when you pour them
out. Now imagine a substance with some of the order of a solid and some of
the fluidity of a liquid. What you have is a liquid crystala kind of halfway
house in between. At any given moment, liquid crystals can be in one of
several possible "substates" (phases) somewhere in a limbo-land between
solid and liquid. The two most important liquid crystal phases are called
nematic and smectic:

When they're in the nematic phase, liquid crystals are

a bit like a liquid: their molecules can move around
and shuffle past one another, but they all point in
broadly the same direction. They're a bit like matches
in a matchbox: you can shake them and move them
about but they all keep pointing the same way.
If you cool liquid crystals, they shift over to
the smectic phase. Now the molecules form into
layers that can slide past one another relatively easily.
The molecules in a given layer can move about within
it, but they can't and don't move into the other layers
(a bit like people working for different companies on
particular floors of an office block). There are actually
several different smectic "subphases," but we won't go
into them in any more detail here.

Find out more

Want to know more about liquid crystals? There's a great page called History
and Properties of Liquid Crystals on the Nobel website.

What is polarized light?

Nematic liquid crystals have a really neat party trick. They can adopt a
twisted-up structure and, when you apply electricity to them, they straighten
out again. That may not sound much of a trick, but it's the key to how LCD
displays turn pixels on and off. To understand how liquid crystals can control
pixels, we need to know about polarized light.

Light is a mysterious thing. Sometimes it behaves like a stream of particles

like a constant barrage of microscopic cannonballs carrying energy we can
see, through the air, at extremely high speed. Other times, light behaves more
like waves on the sea. Instead of water moving up and down, light is a wave
pattern of electrical and magnetic energy vibrating through space.
Photo: A trick of the polarized light: rotate one pair of polarizing sunglasses past another and you can block out
virtually all the light that normally passes through.
Photo: A less well known trick of polarized light: it makes crystals gleam with amazing spectral colors due to a
phenomenon called pleochroism. Photo of protein and virus crystals, many of which were grown in space.
Credit: Dr. Alex McPherson, University of California, Irvine. Photo courtesy of NASA Marshall Space Flight
Center (NASA-MSFC).

When sunlight streams down from the sky, the light waves are all mixed up
and vibrating in every possible direction. But if we put a filter in the way, with a
grid of lines arranged vertically like the openings in prison bars (only much
closer together), we can block out all the light waves except the ones vibrating
vertically (the only light waves that can get through vertical bars). Since we
block off much of the original sunlight, our filter effectively dims the light. This
is how polarizing sunglasses work: they cut out all but the sunlight vibrating in
one direction or plane. Light filtered in this way is called polarized or plane-
polarized light (because it can travel in only one plane).

If you have two pairs of polarizing sunglasses (and it won't work with ordinary
sunglasses), you can do a clever trick. If you put one pair directly in front of
the other, you should still be able to see through. But if you slowly rotate one
pair, and keep the other pair in the same place, you will see the light coming
through gradually getting darker. When the two pairs of sunglasses are at 90
degrees to each other, you won't be able to see through them at all. The first
pair of sunglasses blocks off all the light waves except ones vibrating
vertically. The second pair of sunglasses works in exactly the same way as
the first pair. If both pairs of glasses are pointing in the same direction, that's
finelight waves vibrating vertically can still get through both. But if we turn
the second pair of glasses through 90 degrees, the light waves that made it
through the first pair of glasses can no longer make it through the second pair.
No light at all can get through two polarizing filters that are at 90 degrees to
one another.

How LCD televisions use liquid crystals and polarized

Photo: Prove to yourself that an LCD display uses polarized light. Simply put on a pair of polarizing sunglasses
and rotate your head (or the display). You'll see the display at its brightest at one angle and at its darkest at
exactly 90 degrees to that angle.

Photo: How liquid crystals switch light on and off. In one orientation, polarized light cannot pass through the
crystals so they appear dark (left side photo). In a different orientation, polarized light passes through okay so
the crystals appear bright (right side photo). We can make the crystals change orientationand switch their
pixels on and offsimply by applying an electric field. Photo from liquid crystal research by David Weitz
courtesy of NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (NASA-MSFC).

An LCD TV screen uses the sunglasses trick to switch its colored pixels on or
off. At the back of the screen, there's a large bright light that shines out toward
the viewer. In front of this, there are the millions of pixels, each one made up
of smaller areas called sub-pixels that are colored red, blue, or green. Each
pixel has a polarizing glass filter behind it and another one in front of it at 90
degrees. That means the pixel normally looks dark. In between the two
polarizing filters there's a tiny twisted, nematic liquid crystal that can be
switched on or off (twisted or untwisted) electronically. When it's switched off,
it rotates the light passing through it through 90 degrees, effectively allowing
light to flow through the two polarizing filters and making the pixel look bright.
When it's switched on, it doesn't rotate the light, which is blocked by one of
the polarizers, and the pixel looks dark. Each pixel is controlled by a
separate transistor (a tiny electronic component) that can switch it on or off
many times each second.

How colored pixels in LCD TVs work

There's a bright light at the back of your TV; there are lots of colored squares
flickering on and off at the front. What goes on in between? Here's how each
colored pixel is switched on or off:

How pixels are switched off

1. Light travels from the back of the TV toward the front

from a large bright light.
2. A horizontal polarizing filter in front of the light blocks
out all light waves except those vibrating horizontally.
3. Only light waves vibrating horizontally can get
4. A transistor switches off this pixel by switching on the
electricity flowing through its liquid crystal. That makes
the crystal straighten out (so it's completely
untwisted), and the light travels straight through it
5. Light waves emerge from the liquid crystal still
vibrating horizontally.
6. A vertical polarizing filter in front of the liquid crystal
blocks out all light waves except those vibrating
vertically. The horizontally vibrating light that travelled
through the liquid crystal cannot get through the
vertical filter.
7. No light reaches the screen at this point. In other
words, this pixel is dark.

How pixels are switched on

1. The bright light at the back of the screen shines as

2. The horizontal polarizing filter in front of the light
blocks out all light waves except those vibrating
3. Only light waves vibrating horizontally can get
4. A transistor switches on this pixel by switching off the
electricity flowing through its liquid crystal. That makes
the crystal twist. The twisted crystal rotates light
waves by 90 as they travel through it.
5. Light waves that entered the liquid crystal vibrating
horizontally emerge from it vibrating vertically.
6. The vertical polarizing filter in front of the liquid crystal
blocks out all light waves except those vibrating
vertically. The vertically vibrating light that emerged
from the liquid crystal can now get through the vertical
7. The pixel is lit up. A red, blue, or green filter gives the
pixel its color.

What's the difference between LCD and plasma?

A plasma screen looks similar to an LCD, but works in a completely different
way: each pixel is effectively a microscopic fluorescent lamp glowing with
plasma. A plasma is a very hot form of gas in which the atoms have blown
apart to make negatively charged electrons and positively charged ions
(atoms minus their electrons). These move about freely, producing a fuzzy
glow of light whenever they collide. Plasma screens can be made much
bigger than ordinary cathode-ray tube televisions, but they are also much
more expensive.

A brief history of LCDs

1888: Friedrich Reinitzer, an Austrian plant scientist, discovers
liquid crystals while studying a chemical called cholesteryl
benzoate. It seems to have two distinct crystal forms, one solid
and one liquid, each with its own melting point.
1889: Building on Reinitzer's work, German chemist and
physicist Otto Lehmann coins the term "liquid crystals"
(originally, "flowing crystals" or "fliessende Krystalle" in
German) and carries out more detailed research using
polarized light. Although his work is nominated for a Nobel
Prize, he never actually wins one.
1962: RCA's Richard Williams begins to research the optical
properties of nematic liquid crystals. He files his
groundbreaking LCD patent (US Patent 3,322,485) on
November 9, 1962 and it's finally granted almost five years
later on May 30, 1967.
1960s: RCA engineers like George Heilmeier build on this
theoretical research to produce the very first practical
electronic displays, hoping to create LCD televisions.
1968: RCA publicly unveils LCD technology at a press
conference, prompting The New York Times to anticipate
products like "A thin television screen that can be hung on the
living-room wall like a painting."
1968: French scientist Pierre-Gilles de Gennes carries out
groundbreaking research into phase transitions involving liquid
crystals, for which he wins the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1991.
1969: RCA's Wolfgang Helfrich develops twisted nematic LCDs
based on polarized light, but the company is skeptical and
shies away from developing them. At Kent State University,
James Fergason develops and patents an alternative version
of the same idea. Today, Helfrich, his collaborator Martin
Schadt, and Fergason are jointly credited with inventing the
modern LCD.
1970: Having failed to commercialize the LCD, RCA sells its
technology to Timex, which popularizes LCDs in the first digital
1973: Sharp unveils the world's first LCD pocket calculator (the
1980: STN (super twisted nematic) displays appear, with far
more pixels offering higher resolution images.
1988: 100 years after the discovery of liquid crystals, Sharp
sounds the death knell for cathode-ray tubes when it produces
the first 14-inch color TV with a TFT (thin-film transistor) LCD